This week my nephew Capt. Derek Herrera retired from active duty with the Marines. He was awarded a Bronze Star for combat valor at his retirement ceremony at Camp Pendleton. He was accompanied by his wife Maura and service dog Shaggy. And he was walking even with a bullet lodged in his spine, thanks to the recently FDA-approved ReWalk robotic exoskeleton.
Derek was wounded in Afghanistan in 2012 by a sniper’s bullet in the Helmand River Valley of southwestern Afghanistan leading his special operations team, paralyzed from the chest down.
Today Derek is CEO of Ruckpack. RuckPack® is a concentrated liquid energy shot of essential vitamins and minerals, without caffeine. He is also completing his MBA from UCLA.
Derek’s story is captured thoughtfully in this article by Gretel Kovach, U-T San Diego military affairs writer.
Photo courtesy of U-T San Diego.
Marine Capt. Derek Herrera is walking.
That’s newsworthy because he was paralyzed from the chest down in June 2012 when he was shot in Afghanistan. Today he’s using ReWalk, invented in Israel by ReWalk Robotics. ReWalk consists of motorized leg braces, a backpack containing a computer and several lithium ion batteries, a wrist-mounted controller and crutches for balance.
“Being able to look at a person at eye level is awesome,” he said.
ReWalk recently obtained FDA approval and the company issued an IPO last month.
I grew up as part of a military family. My dad was in the Air Force, and as an Air Force “brat,” every couple of years we moved. I especially remember Kansas, where I experienced snow for the first time as a first-grader (along with my parents, who were from New Orleans), and moving to Spain, where I learned Spanish as a third-grader. We also lived in Tucson, Arizona, home to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I loved the mountains, returning years later to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona. While we were in Tucson, Dad was sent to Vietnam for a year. To this day, he’s never said much about his experience at Da Nang.
The last place we moved to was Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I completed high school. My father retired from the military in his 40s, embarked on a second career as a machinist in Wichita Falls, and lives there today.
On this Memorial Day, the memories come flooding back. My thoughts turn to all the brave men and women who gave their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and to those serving today. Today I’m thinking about my nephew Derek Herrera, an active-duty Marine Special Operations Officer shot in 2012 leading his team on patrol in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Today I remember so much.
Let’s never forget the sacrifices so many men, women and their families have made in defense of our nation’s security and freedom.