Us­ing $2 veto pen a priceless act for fa­ther of fallen Marine

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jon Ward

Pres­i­dent Bush on May 1 used a reg­u­lar black-ink, felt-tip pen — not his usual per­son­al­ized Cross-brand pen — when he ve­toed a time­line for with­drawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The pen was a gift from Robert Derga, the fa­ther of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq. Mr. Derga of Union­town, Ohio, gave Mr. Bush the pen af­ter a speech by the pres­i­dent last month at the White House and had asked him to use it when he ve­toed the time­line.

Mr. Bush had in­vited a num­ber of “Gold Star Fam­i­lies” — those who have lost a U.S. mil­i­tary mem­ber in Iraq — to the speech April 16 and met with them af­ter­ward in the Oval Of­fice.

Mr. Derga, 53, said the pen was the one he used to write let­ters to his son, Marine Cpl. Dustin A. Derga.

“It was just a com­mon run of the mill [. . . ] I don’t even re­mem­ber the brand name,” Mr. Derga said. “It was just a $2 pen. Noth­ing spe­cial.”

Mr. Bush met with the Der­gas and other fam­i­lies for about 45 min­utes and

spoke di­rectly with each fam­ily.

“I looked the pres­i­dent square in the eye,” Mr. Derga said. “I looked at him and said, ‘Mr. Pres­i­dent, if this Iraq sup­ple­men­tal comes down to a veto, I want you to use my pen to do it.’ ”

Mr. Bush “kind of looked at me funny for a mo­ment and then said, ‘Ab­so­lutely,’ and then handed the pen to his as­sis­tant,” he said.

“He as­sured me he would use it,” Mr. Derga said.

Cpl. Derga was killed in Iraq on May 8, 2005, while lead­ing houseto-house searches in Ubaydi, Iraq. He was 24.

He was the first Marine killed from Lima Com­pany, with the Marine Force Re­serve’s 3rd Bat­tal­ion, 25th Marine Reg­i­ment, 4th Marine Di­vi­sion, based in Colum­bus, Ohio.

On May 1, Mr. Derga was shut­ting off his com­puter at work about 5:30 p.m. when he re­ceived a call from Jared We­in­stein, Mr. Bush’s per­sonal aide.

Mr. We­in­stein was call­ing “to tell me that the pres­i­dent had signed the veto with my pen,” Mr. Derga said.

“They wanted to again give their heart­felt con­do­lences on our loss of Dustin,” he said. “I was pretty blown away is one way of putting it. I couldn’t be­lieve he ac­tu­ally did it.”

Mr. Derga, a man­ager for Diebold Inc., said it was grat­i­fy­ing to be able to show his sup­port for Mr. Bush and for the war, even if it has not al­ways been easy to sup­port the U.S. mis­sion in Iraq.

“It’s been painful for this na­tion and me per­son­ally, but I still feel strongly about get­ting the job done over there and get­ting it done right,” he said. “It meant a lot to us that we were able to make our po­si­tion known, that we con­tinue to sup­port him.”

But Mr. Derga said he is frus­trated that many Amer­i­cans do not think Iraq is part of the war on ter­ror­ism.

“I re­ally feel strongly that this na­tion needs to wake up and un­der­stand what’s at risk here and what’s in the bal­ance,” he said.

Mr. Derga said he vis­its his son’s grave in Reynolds­burg, Ohio, ev­ery few weeks.

“He had a won­der­ful smile and a great dim­ple. He was a great kid. He loved to play base­ball. He just loved work­ing with his hands,” he said. “And he was al­ways in­ter­ested in mil­i­tary ser­vice and pub­lic ser­vice.”

Cpl. Derga was a vol­un­teer fire­fighter and a steel­worker. He was work­ing to­ward a de­gree as an emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cian and fire science from Colum­bus State Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

“Prob­a­bly his smile I miss more than any­thing,” Mr. Derga said. “I think about him ev­ery day. I know I’ll see him again, so it’s just a mat­ter of time.”

Marla Kanapic / Spe­cial to The Wash­ing­ton Times

Robert Derga hugged son, Marine Cpl. Dustin A. Derga, be­fore his 2005 de­ploy­ment. Mr. Derga gave Pres­i­dent Bush the pen he used to write his son, who died while serv­ing in Iraq.

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