CLARA CITY, Minnesota — Even after his passing, a veteran of Western Minnesota has had a profound impact on others.
Derek DuHoux, 34, died last week, nine days after the cropduster plane he was flying crashed near the town of Clara City. But as John Lauritsen shows us, Derek’s memory lives on in more ways than one.
“You don’t realize the impact your kids have on people’s lives until a tragedy happens,” said mother Rachel DuHoux.
At a young age, Derek knew two things. He wanted to be a pilot and he wanted to join the army.
‘Always. Ever since he was little,’ Rachel said. “He was talking about it in kindergarten.”
Derek, whose nickname was “Hooty”, even missed his senior prom due to military training, so one of his best friends attached Derek’s photo to his tuxedo.
He received numerous military medals and flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan. One particular combat mission resulted in an emergency landing.
“It was actually shot up quite a bit, the helicopter,” Rachel said. “They never got to use it again.”
From serving his country to serving his community. When Derek moved back to Clara City, he became a first responder, flying crop dust planes with help from his brother Eli – even though he knew the job was dangerous.
“Every time you saw him leave the hangar, you thought, ‘Yeah, that’s my brother,'” Eli said.
But on July 25, Derek’s plane hit a power line and crashed into a cornfield. Nine days later, the decorated veteran died of his injuries.
Derek knew the job was dangerous, but flying was his passion. And his family says he just couldn’t see himself doing anything else.
‘He always said that. He said if something happens to me, you know, if I get deployed or something, he said just know I died doing something I loved,” Rachel said.
“I told some of my friends, they said, ‘It’s weird how a power line can take it out and not in Afghanistan,'” Eli said.
Still, Derek lives on in many ways. He was an organ donor and so far four of his major organs are already helping other people.
“This community has surrounded us with so much love,” said Rachel. “We just want people to remember him as a small-town hero, because he really was.”
The family say that Rachel and Derek’s father, John, along with his birth mother Gail and her husband Dave, would like to thank the entire town of Clara City and everyone who has reached out. The local hardware store is giving away green porch lights to anyone who makes a military donation.