I'm very proud of him, explains Derek TMs mom, Faye Mroczkowski. He's my hero. He always has been since he was in high school."
But he's not just his mom's hero. Army veteran, Derek Gagne, is also an American hero.
I served in Iraq, said Gagne. It was supposed to be a one year tour, but unfortunately it was cut short. I got two Purple Hearts and a bronze star and lost my leg."
On January 22, 2007, Derek was in southeast Baghdad helping train the Iraqi police. A bomb hit his humvee. Out of the four people, two survived.
But he'd gladly trade places with his friends if he could. He had their names put on his racecar.
I mean, I made this car initially to be a dedication for all those who lost their lives and for a couple of my friends, Gagne said.
Racing is a way for him to relieve stress. But when other drivers have a professional race team and car, Derek TMs crew is his family. He makes do with what he has, which also means his race car is made of mostly used parts.
For now, his plan is to race full time. But his mom told me what he'd really like to do.
If it was up to him, he'd go back, Mroczkowski said. And I TMm proud that he would like to go back, but he's not one to sit. He TMd rather be out in that humvee and just doing his job."
The Derek Gagne Purple Heart Express Fund has been set up to help Derek TMs racing. Anyone who wants to donate can send money to Superior National Bank and Trust in Houghton.