NORTH CALDWELL, NJ - Sergeant Derek Tra McConnell, age 23, who was injured in Afghanistan on July 23, 2011, died March 18, 2013.

Funeral Home Visitation:
Liturgy of Christian Burial:

Born in 1989, McConnell was a 2008 graduate of West Essex High School in North Caldwell. After graduation, he moved to Parsippany in August 2009. 

McConnell enlisted in the US Army in January 2010 and, after finishing Airborne training, he was assigned to Catamount, B Co, 2-87 at Fort Drum, NY. Derek's deployment began on March 18, 2011 when he was deployed to Afghanistan.

On July 23, 2011, McConnell was out on a dismounted patrol and went walking through an area of improvised explosive devices (IED); he stepped on one which according to reports knocked him out. He reportedly got back up and, in an attempt to rescue another soldier, was hit by a second IED. 

According to published accounts, McConnell ultimately suffered amputations of both legs (the left leg from the hip), fractured his skull, his jaw was fractured in three places, he lost teeth, sustained kidney damage and received traumatic injury to his right arm which left him with limited function, as well as blast wounds and internal injuries. 

In December of 2011, the US Navy released a photo of McConnell posing with his mother, Siobhan, his fiancee, Krystina Dressler and three therapy dogs.

Therapy dogs Lt. Cmdr. Bobbie, Rear Adm. Laura Lee and Marine Sgt. Archie pose
for a photo with Army Pfc. Derek McConnell and his fiancee, Krystina Dressler, and his
mother, Siobhan McConnell, in McConnell's hospital room at Walter Reed National
Military Medical Center. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class
Peggy Trujillo/Released)

McConnell and his fiancee and high school sweetheart, Krystina Dressler of Fairfield, had recently won “The Knot’s” wedding contest. On March 5, Dressler posted on her online blog “Now on to other exciting wedding news!” and went on to describe her plans for her wedding dress and their upcoming wedding in January of 2014.

Credit: Krystina Dressler

Sergeant Derek Tra McConnell is survived by his fiancée, Krystina Dressl of Fairfield. He is also survived by his mother, Siobhan Fuller McConnell, siblings Michael Fuller, Kellina, Ryan, and Sean McConnell; his grandfather, John Fuller; his Aunt Yvette (Kiki), Uncle Brian, and cousins: Joseph, Eric, and A.J. Maglio, all from Parsippany, as well as his future in-laws, Dennis, Raffaela, and Michael Dressler, all from Fairfield.

According to a statement released by his family, McConnell was an aspiring writer and ghost hunter. He was looking forward to being medically retired from the Army this summer, as well as picking up his service dog, Gabriel. Derek did not let his injuries get him down. His sense of humor, "never quit" attitude, and passion for life were infectious. 

Those wishing to sign a guest book which will be viewed by the family may do so online here.
To extend a personal note of sympathy to family by email, do so online here.

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In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested donations in McConnell's memory be made to the following non-profits: