Brig. Gen. David Hogg recalled his first meeting with Garnet R. Derby in Iraq in 2003. He recalled Derby as a "gruff, knuckle-dragging guy."
"He was a superb, dirty-boots officer," Hogg said. "He understood leaders lead from the front."
Derby, 44, of Missoula, Mont., was killed Feb. 9. when his vehicle was destroyed by a car bomb. He was assigned to Fort Hood and was on his third tour in Iraq.
Derby joined the Montana Army National Guard in 1985 as a cavalry scout. He was an ROTC member at the University of Montana, where he earned a degree in physical education.
Hogg said he used to tease Derby about his given name, Garnet. That was before Hogg knew about Montana''s Garnet Mountains. Derby took the ribbing, Hogg said, but responded with a "Sir, give me a break."
About 90 days before the end of each of his tours, Derby would start a letter-writing campaign to his children, Todd said. The daily missives were a countdown, eventually to the number of seconds, until the family would be reunited.
He is survived by his wife, Brenda, and their children, Jennifer, Matthew and Benjamin.