YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. -- U.S. Army Spc. David R. Fahey Jr., was remembered by friends, family and fellow soldiers for his winning smile, religious ways, love of fast cars and dedication in uniform during a two-hour funeral ceremony attended by more than 500 mourners including Gov. Dannel Malloy.
Fahey, who was born in Norwalk and spent part of his childhood there before moving to Yorktown Heights, was killed early on the morning on Feb. 28 when the Humvee he was driving back from a street-to-street foot patrol in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan was blown apart by an explosive device. He was 23 years old.
His squad leader, U.S. Army Sgt. Skye Ortiz told those gathered at St. Patrick's Church that two hours before he was killed at 2:15 a.m. that Monday, Fahey did everything possible to make that evening's patrol a success.
Even after working 18- to 20-hour days, five to six days a week, Ortiz said during the four-mile foot patrol that Fahey and he were on that night, Fahey checked down every alley and watched intently for enemies.
"He always had a smile on his face and he was the best at his job," Ortiz said, standing at the pulpit before Fahey's flag-draped coffin. "I lost the hardest working, most influential soldier I have ever had the pleasure to know."
Ortiz went on to say that Fahey's death has become the biggest "heartache" in his 26 years of life and eight years in the service.
"David never passed and never will," Ortiz said. "We will always carry him in our hearts and minds."
Fahey and his unit were deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. in June.
His uncle, Tom Fahey, who Fahey came to live with as a young teenager said he considered David his son.
He said getting up to speak in front of those gathered was the most difficult thing he had ever had to do.
"I did not think I could stand up here today," he said. "In the battle for good and evil, my son joined Christ."
Through sobs, Fahey glanced at a large picture of David Fahey dressed in his Army fatigues and said, "As you look at that picture and see the smile, David's life wasn't always so easy. If anyone had a reason to be upset at life he would be a good candidate."
The oldest of three children, Fahey was forced to grow up fast. His father died young and his mother led a pockmarked life in and out of prison and drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, according to court records.
Fahey and his younger brother and sister were cared for by relatives and were eventually formally adopted by their Aunt Fran and Uncle Tom Fahey in Yorktown Heights where they lived with their three cousins.
Despite a turbulent childhood, Fahey was known as a good student and gained a reputation as a practical joker who loved to bring levity to any situation.
He attended schools in both Yorktown Heights, Norwalk and graduated from a Christian school in Danbury.
After graduation, he enlisted in the Army and according to family, he was looking to join the New York City Police Department when he completed his tour of duty in June.
Fahey is the second soldier from Norwalk to die as part of the global war on terror. Spc. Wilfredo Perez Jr. died in Iraq in 2003 -- his father, Wilfredo Perez Sr. attended Thursday's funeral. He declined to comment afterward.
Following the service, Malloy ordered all state and U.S. flags to return to full staff after 10 days of mourning.
Wiping tears from his eyes, Tom Fahey said after hearing about David's death 11 days ago, he was overwhelmed by emotion. He said when he got the call, "and I learned, I did not want it to be... I know I am going to see him some day,"
Fahey said his "son" paid the ultimate price for his country in the battle against evil. "I can stand here today and tell you that it has been my honor, been my honor... He has set a fine example. He has been a blessing to my life and I thank God for giving me that opportunity," Fahey said.
When his cousin Tyler Fahey got up to speak, he could barely contain his grief.
Through tearful eyes, Fahey recounted David's entry into their family and told of how David became an older brother and best friend, who Tyler patterned himself after.
"It is so sad you know," Fahey said through sobs. "He is a hero. He is my hero."
Fahey's training sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Lockett, said he watched David Fahey grow up from a kid who did not know what he was doing to a young man who knew how to accomplish his military goals.
He said that Fahey, who was due to come home in June, was like a son to him and his death felt like someone had just taken his kid.
"I will make sure he is honored wherever I walk. I love you Fahey," Lockett said.