Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers gives a flag to Darlyn Smith, mother of Army Spc. Derek A. Stanley, during services Thursday at Fort Gibson National Cemetery. Stanley died June 5 in Afghanistan. Patriot Riders line a cemetery road in honor of Army Spc. Derek A. Stanley, 20, of Tulsa. 7SOLDIER
FORT GIBSON - Mourners on Thursday remembered a 20-year-old Tulsa soldier who died in Afghanistan as a man whose blossoming life was cut short on Earth but will continue in heaven. "He has already earned his wings, and they are golden," said Mark Smith, uncle of Army Spc. Derek A. Stanley. "He will always be my hero." Stanley died June 5 in Afghanistan. About 100 friends and relatives filled Millsap Funeral Service Chapel in Fort Gibson. They wept, hugged and prayed. One friend, Ted Ray Bailey, paid tribute to Stanley with a song on an acoustic guitar. Stanley was buried at Fort Gibson National Cemetery. Smith, who also served in the Army during the 1990s, said his nephew started maturing because of his service. Often during his 10-minute eulogy, Smith stopped and took deep breaths. He said Stanley was a protector of Americans and his family. He said he remembered growing up and reading about past wars but never thought his family would become a victim in one. "They were all just words on a page," he said. "I know that we as Americans have been lucky to have had (Stanley) guarding our shores for us.