Paul J. Darga—March 2007 Shipment HonoreeLittle Creek petty officer killed by bomb in IraqSource: by Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot (August 24, 2006)
Paul J. Darga, a chief petty officer based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach, headed back to Iraq in June for his fourth Middle East tour. He was killed by a homemade bomb Tuesday in the Al Anbar province, the Department of Defense announced Thursday. Darga was 34.
“The few months he was home before this deployment we were closer than we’ve ever been,” said Karie Darga, who met her future husband in high school in Alpena, Mich. “If this had to happen, my last memories of him are the best they could be.”
Married since 1994, the couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Kailey Rose.
The past 12 months had been momentous for Paul Darga, who was born in Spain and lived in Japan as an Army brat before his father retired and the family moved to Michigan.
Last September, Darga was promoted to chief petty officer. He was a member of the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two.
Early this year, he spent more than two weeks of leave from the Middle East visiting his mother, who was dying of cancer. He’d been given the option of going to Michigan to see her while she was still alive, or returning to the United States for her funeral, family members said.
“He needed the time with her when she could talk,” Karie Darga said from her Norfolk home. “They had some wonderful conversations. He treasured that time.” His mother died in March.
On May 26, less than a month before he returned to Iraq, Darga was one of about 20 members of the Little Creek unit awarded a Bronze Star for Valor for their work disposing of bombs, unexploded weapons and weapons caches while in combat. “It meant a lot for him to be honored, but he truly believed he was doing his job,” Karie Darga said.
During a six-month deployment that ended in February 2005, the award citation said, Darga oversaw 163 ordnance disposal missions. He supervised the disposal of more than 6,000 pounds of captured explosives, and his team defused 40 IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. “His outstanding performance, dedication to duty and courage while performing his duties under hostile fire were critical to the success of coalition operations under the most extreme and austere conditions,” the citation says.
His father and stepmother traveled from Michigan for the ceremony. Jack Darga said Thursday that he had a feeling while saying goodbye to Paul that weekend that he wouldn’t see his youngest child again. “For the last six months I just had a premonition,” Jack Darga said from his home in Cheboygan, Mich. “I knew it was going to happen.”
Lt. Jim Hoeft, a spokesman for the Navy’s Expeditionary Combat Command, said Darga is the second Navy explosive ordnance disposal team member to be killed in combat in Iraq. His team had been responding to a strike Tuesday when a second IED exploded, according to the Department of Defense.
Karie Darga said her husband believed completely in the U.S. mission. He knew the risks and was fully trained and confident in his abilities, she said.
Paul Darga started his 16-year Navy career as a Seabee, then went to diving school and joined an underwater construction team at Little Creek. After a number of assignments and 12 months of rigorous EOD training in Florida, Darga and his wife returned to Hampton Roads in April 2002, when he joined Little Creek’s EOD Mobile Unit Two.
Two years later, Karie Darga gave birth to their daughter. “His heart began to melt the day I found out that I was pregnant,” she said.
In his little free time, Paul Darga enjoyed woodworking and tinkering on his beloved green 1995 Mustang. Karie Darga would work with him under the hood; the couple did everything together, she said.
On Saturday, she said, they spent a few hours on the phone, talking about everything and nothing, reveling in their newfound closeness. They last spoke on Monday, the day before he was killed, for about 15 minutes.
Now her thoughts have turned to planning his memorial service—and figuring out a way to preserve her husband’s memory for their daughter. She’s decided to create a box in which she and others who loved Paul can place items that help explain to Kailey who her father was.
Bomb technician attached to Pendlton unit killed in IraqSource: by MARK WALKER, Staff Writer, North Country Times
A U.S. Navy chief petty officer who specialized in detecting and removing explosives died in a roadside bomb attack in the Anbar province of Iraq, the Defense Department announced.
Chief Petty Officer Paul J. Darga was killed while responding to an earlier roadside bombing when his team was struck by another improvised explosive device, the military’s term for the weapons responsible for a majority of the combat deaths and injuries in Iraq.
Darga was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and was attached to the 1st Marine Logistics Group based at Camp Pendleton. Married and the father of one, he was assigned to the Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va.
In May, Darga was awarded a Bronze Star with Combat Valor for his actions during a previous deployment to Iraq… When he was awarded the Bronze Star, Darga was cited for his actions in Iraq from August 2004 to February 2005. During that time, he and his team of specialists identified and rendered safe 40 roadside bombs and a wide array of other explosives, according to the citation accompanying the award.
Darga was a native of Lansing, Mich. He joined the Navy in 1992 and became a chief petty officer in September 2005.
In addition to the Bronze Star, he had three Navy Marine Corps Achievement medals, two Good Conduct medals and a Humanitarian Service Medal.
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Paul during the month of March 2007 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Paul’s family and friends today and in the years to come.