Captain Derek Herrera: Walking in the Footsteps of Giants

“Every day is a choice to live, love, inspire, honor the fallen, make the world a better place, and walk in the footsteps of giants.”

- Captain Derek Herrera

Walking In The Footsteps of  … Those Who Serve

In 2006, Derek Herrera graduated the United States Naval Academy as a Marine and served as a Marine Infantry and Special Operations Officer. As an Infantry Officer, he deployed twice — once to Iraq and once aboard naval vessels to various countries in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East — before completing Special Operations training to become a Marine Raider in 2011.

While leading his team on patrol in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2012, Captain Herrera’s life changed forever when he was shot in the spine by an enemy sniper and instantly paralyzed from the waist down. He spent six months in rehabilitation at a Veteran’s hospital in Florida, where Derek and his family first received help from Semper Fi & America’s Fund in the form of family support grants and home assistance.

The Fund installed an elevator in Derek’s home and purchased a body vibration platform to increase bone density and reduce spasticity in his legs, and Derek also received support from the Tim and Sandy Day Canine Companion Program for his service dog and faithful companion, Shaggy.

… Of Those Who’ve Sacrificed For Freedom

For his incredible service to this country, Derek received the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Bronze Star (with a combat distinguishing device), the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Derek, in an article he wrote for the San Diego Union-Tribune, shared how it felt when his life drastically changed. “For too long, I thought only of what this event took from me. I’m not certain if it is common for humans to narrow their scope of view when taken back into the realm of physical survival, but that was certainly my experience. It took longer than I would like to admit, but after some time I realized how many of my brothers, who didn’t get a second chance, would gladly have accepted my circumstance.”

So Derek chose to live every day to the fullest, using his own experiences to thrive as an entrepreneur and an advocate for veterans.

… Of Those Who Inspire Others

Derek soon earned a Master of Business Administration at the UCLA Anderson School of Management alongside researching spinal cord injuries. His passion for his own rehabilitation and recovery led to his founding of UroDev Medical (formerly Spinal Singularity), a company that designs devices to improve the quality of life for those with Spinal Cord Injury and Disease.

When he noticed a gap in the market for an easy-to-use skin inspection device, Derek worked alongside researchers at the Minneapolis VA to create the Habit Camera — the first low-cost, digital skin inspection tool for those with at risk for chronic wounds, pressure ulcers due to limited mobility, diabetes, and countless other skin conditions. The Habit Camera also supports telehealth, enabling patients to send images and videos to caregivers/clinicians via text message or email. This high-tech camera is also designed and assembled in the US by Veterans or Veteran family members to provide hope and healing where it is needed most.

… Of Those Who Leave Legacies

Derek now lives in San Clemente, CA with his wife, Maura, their twin boys, Hudson and Hunter, and his faithful dog, Shaggy.

“Every day is a choice to live, love, inspire, honor the fallen, make the world a better place, and walk in the footsteps of giants,” said Derek, clear that his determination to walk again has continually fueled his desire to help others in similar situations. “I feel incredibly lucky to have so many opportunities to make a difference as a leader of Marines, as an entrepreneur, and by sharing my story to advocate for veterans’ issues.”.

For everyone at The Fund, Derek serves as an inspiration of selfless service, grit, and what it means to live each day in a way that honors the great sacrifice and courage of every service member and their families, and the hope that is found by walking in the footsteps of giants.