Make every day your Masterpiece

Derek Herrera UCLA John Wooden Leadership Awards @2x

After being honored this week with the John Wooden Global Leadership Award at UCLA the Wooden quote that continues to resonate with me is to ‘Make Every Day your Masterpiece.’ John Wooden was a phenomenal man, leader, and his humility was what most people remembered about him, in spite of the incredible success he achieved. He also mentioned that the joy of success lies in the journey, not the reward. This means a lot to me.

This month has been an incredible journey and started in Washington DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. This was the most fun I have had at a Marathon yet, and it was because of the incredible people associated with the race. I was lucky enough to speak to a room of about 100 supporters of the MARSOC Foundation and share a bit about my life with them the night before the race. The race went well and I continued to improve my time, setting a new personal best.

This month has also been a great month for the American Technion Society. I spoke to an audience and shared the stage with Boaz Golany, at the Museum of Tolerance in LA. We launched a new fundraising campaign that I hope to use to Pay it Forward. Our goal is to raise money to fund the purchase of exoskeleton technology for other individuals who, like myself, couldn’t afford to purchase the device. Maura and I were very pleased with how the video turned out (despite my complete lack of experience doing voiceovers).

I also was lucky enough to share my story with the San Diego ATS Chapter and many of the folks with OurCrowd. OurCrowd is a company that combines crowdfunding with accredited investors to allow individuals to invest in companies that are poised for growth.

I was the Guest of Honor at a Marine Corps Birthday Ball. It was a phenomenal time and I left truly inspired after speaking with the hundreds of junior enlisted Marines there that were motivated, excited to serve and still there to answer the nation’s call. I truly believe that the most important asset in the Marine Corps is our human capital. Such incredible energy and optimism combined with the right mindset and training go a long ways to creating a top performing organization.

I was lucky enough to attend the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation Board meeting where we reviewed and prioritized the funding of advanced research in many different areas seeking to improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with paralysis. This was a great time and it has been fun getting back into more technical engineering roles. I have always been incredibly passionate about medical technology and feel incredibly lucky to be involved in this regard. I have been working diligently on some new medical technology that I hope will one day improve the lives of individuals dealing with paralysis someday and I always leave events like this, and the Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine Conference, inspired to further develop my concepts into reality.

I had the pleasure of speaking on stage at the Stand up for Heroes annual gala hosted by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The foundation identifies emerging non-profit organizations that benefit injured service members and supports them with fundraising. I got to spend a good bit of time with Bob and Lee Woodruff and they are truly a class act! Maura and I were so honored to meet them and know that there are people in the media who can personally relate to injured service members and are taking action to make positive changes.

2014 Stand Up For Heroes - Show

The day after the Woodruff event, I caught up with the crew from HirePurpose. HirePurpose is doing incredible things to support transitioning veterans and employers looking to hire talented service members. They have generated great traction in this environment, and invited me to attend an event with Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, at the AOL headquarters in NYC. During the event Howard and his co-writer Rajiv Chandrasekaran began telling the story of Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. Jordan was in the same unit I was when he was killed during our deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. Howard and Rajiv did an excellent job briefly summarizing the story of Jordan’s sacrifice and I was lucky enough to chat with them both after the event, where they signed a copy of the book For Love of Country. Howard is continuing to advocate for increased support of veterans integration programs at large corporations. I believe he will lead by example and am excited to see what Starbucks will do to help bring more veterans into the corporate world.

That same night I was invited to speak to the Veteran’s club at the NYU Stern School of Business. It was a small crowd and I was able to connect with the students on a very personal basis.   The day after this event I was invited to speak at the UCLA Anderson School of Management during a Leadership Lecture for the Executive MBA program and it was absolutely invigorating. I feel like I have gained so much personally from sharing my story with others and will continue to share it if it will continue to inspire others.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Foundation Dinner after the event at UCLA and met some young professionals in the LA region that are committed to making the world a better place. This event was the launch of the 20/30 initiative that seeks to enlist the support of professionals in their 20’s and 30’s to make a commitment to change the world by the year 2030. The one quote that still sticks with me from that night is that ‘the one thing that economists can’t put a trend line on is the passion and motivation of the younger generations to make this country and world a better place.’ Personally, I get tired of hearing the claims that the younger generations aren’t pulling their weight and hope to continue being surrounded by people who always pull more than their fair share.

Derek Herrera and Bill Clinton Foundation Gala Los Angeles @2xOn Friday I retired from the Military. After 8.5 years of active service it was bittersweet, but I feel confident knowing that my journey is just beginning. The ceremony and dinner exceeded every one of my expectations and I couldn’t dream of a better way to leave the Marine Corps. So many incredible people attended that truly had positive impact on my life that there is no way for me to thank them, other than continuing to try to live every day of my life in a way that will make them proud. Maura and I are so appreciative of everyone that was able to attend the event and make it a truly special occasion.

Captain Derek Herrera Retirement Ceremony Bronze Star ReWalk @2x

Thanks to Gretel Kovach from the Union Tribune San Diego and Kyung Lah from Anderson Cooper for helping to share my story and capturing the event.

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Moving

A lot has happened since I last wrote.   I would have preferred to keep the blog up to date but have had to prioritize other things.

Recently, Maura and I have done different media events including The Doctors, CNBC with Sue Herera, Bloomberg’s Taking Stock with Pimm Fox, the Delaware State News, a Veteran’s Radio interview I did with another Marine named Yinon Weiss, Task and Purpose: Job Envy series, and a Yahoo Finance article that was featured a few weeks ago.  Most of these interviews center around the ReWalk and I had the opportunity to attend the Initial Public Offering ceremony for ReWalk on the NASDAQ stock exchange.  It was an incredible event and I had a lot of fun.

CEO Larry Jasinski ReWalk Sue Herera Captain Derek Herrera @2x

One of the most interesting things that happened was walking around Times Square. While walking around in the ReWalk, no one asked me if I was paralyzed.  More than a few asked me if I was an actor, and a couple asked why there were empty wheelchairs around.  At first, this seemed a bit insensitive but then I realized how awesome it is that the average person on the street had no idea I was completely paralyzed from the chest down.  This was an incredible moment.

I got to speak with Yinon Weiss, who runs a social networking site for Veterans called RallyPoint, and Zach Iscol, who runs a website called HirePurpose that connects businesses with Veterans who have specific skills and assists with the transition process. These guys are pretty incredible and it was awesome to get to meet other Marines who have started and grown successful businesses that help Veterans and advocate for their cause. I would be thrilled if I can take RuckPack to the levels that these men have grown their businesses to.

I met some incredible candidates that have applied for work with RuckPack and plan to make some key hires in the next month or two. Getting to meet and screen other people to come work for RuckPack has been one of the most important things I have invested time into over the past few months. I firmly believe that the people I hire at this stage will significantly affect the future of our growth and I feel very lucky to have had such incredible applicants.

Maura and I moved into the new house! It has been retrofitted with all of the necessary modifications required to be wheelchair accessible and there are a lot of organizations that we have to thank for supporting the construction efforts. Maura and I would like to thank Paul Hoffecker and Renovating Hope, The Home Depot, the Local Elevators Union (Lift for a Vet), Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, and the MARSOC Foundation. They all pitched in to get the work we needed done and take a huge burden off of Maura and I, allowing us to focus on other things we had going on.

I had the pleasure of meeting Major General Giora Romm, a retired Israeli Fighter Pilot who just wrote a book about his experience as a POW in Egypt.  The book is called Solitary and is being published in the USA by Steven Pressfield, a former Marine who wrote Gates of Fire and The Legend of Bagger Vance as well as many other well-known titles.  He is almost legendary in the Marine Corps since Gates of Fire is pretty much required reading for any young Marine leaders.  They spoke at the UCLA Anderson School of Management a couple of weeks ago and I was incredibly happy to attend.

Captain Derek Herrera Steven Pressfield Major General Giora Romm at UCLA @2x

I completed the Long Beach Marathon two weeks ago. It was a great course, but started so early that it was really dark, which may have contributed to me crashing once, riding into the beach once, and missing a couple of turns where the course was poorly marked and the race started at 5:50 AM. It was still a lot of fun and I finished without injury or any flat tires with a decent time so it turned out well. Last night I took the redeye flight to Washington DC for the Marine Corps Marathon this Sunday. I am really looking forward to the event and seeing all of the other MARSOC Foundation team members here this weekend.

Captain Derek Herrera Long Beach Marathon Hand Cycle @2x

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August

It’s been a great (busy) month.

Maura and I filmed a television show that highlighted some of our personal story and our experience since I was injured two years ago.  The show was taped live and will be airing nationally and internationally soon.  We will make sure to spread the word once we can confirm the date the show will air.

Challenged Athletes Foundation Open Water Swim Para Triathlon @2xI was lucky enough to participate in the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) Para-Triathlon Camp.  There was an incredible coaching staff and legends from the community, including Carlos Moleda, a world-champion hand-cyclist and 4-time Ironman Kona Winner.  CAF is also an incredible organization that raises funds to support any disabled athletes in their pursuit of competitive sports.  They have supported me and countless other athletes in their pursuit of competitive sports.  One of my classmates from the Naval Academy, Eric McElvenny, raised awareness for CAF last year when he completed the Ironman Kona Triathlon after training with Hines Ward.  The camp was a great experience, where I was able to learn advanced techniques that will definitely allow me to improve in the sport.

RuckPack is continuing to grow.  We have been working hard this month to prepare for growth in the market and have incorporated as a Delaware C Corp, completed an audit, established a Board of Directors, and solidified our relationship with international distributors.  This month has been a lot of fun and I have come to understand and appreciate my role in the RuckPack machine.  I did an interview with the Beverage Daily about this subject recently, check it out if you would like to see more details.

I spent a week at UCLA completing another block of summer electives.  This session I learned about Private Equity and Technology Commercialization from some incredible professors.  It was also fun catching up with classmates and seeing all of the things they have been doing over the summer.

Team ReWalk Paralyzed Veterans of America Summit Las Vegas @2xLast week I attended the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Annual Research Summit in Las Vegas.  This event hosted hundreds of doctors, nurses and other industry professionals.  I was lucky enough to meet many of the current leading doctors in the SCI community and hear about the different things they have seen regarding current research.  It was a great time and I also enjoyed meeting the PVA team.  I found out that the PVA does a lot of advocacy and lobbying on Capitol Hill to ensure that Veterans receive the care they deserve across the country.  I had no idea how involved the PVA was in this regard, but it was great to see that there are so many Veterans able to influence and advocate for maintaining the highest level of care for Paralyzed Veterans.  I recently became involved with the PVA and have accepted a seat on the board for their Research Foundation.

Our house is coming along well and should be done soon.  If I haven’t shared it yet, Paul Hoffecker, from Renovating Hope, has been truly incredible and has overseen all of the construction for the house.  He has organized an army of supporters including the MARSOC Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, Home Depot, and our Local Union of Elevator Constructors to facilitate the necessary modifications to our home.  Maura and I are truly grateful for all of the support provided by Paul and everyone involved in this team.

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Transition

The recovery from the Gallbladder surgery has been pretty straightforward.  I was told to take it easy and try not to use my abs at all for a month.  In the midst of that I have been getting more and more involved in the transition process as I plan to leave (medically retire) the Military in November.

I recently signed a contract to run a small functional beverage company called RuckPack.  I had been working for them as a consultant for a few months and then interviewed to become the CEO and it all worked out.  I never saw myself going into the beverage industry, but really wanted the opportunity to run a business and this turned out to be the opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

RuckPack is an incredible company, staffed by other Military Special Operators that I respect and trust.  They first gained notoriety and publicity after appearing on the TV Show ‘Shark Tank’ a couple of years ago.  The founder Rob Dyer has become a close friend of mine and I am really looking forward to working with him and the crew.  Leading RuckPack will allow me to build a team with people that I trust and respect.  To this end I am looking to hire Veterans because I really believe in the values and intangible qualities that Veterans can bring to the business environment.  If you know anyone who is interested in filling any of the positions listed on our website please let me know.

Still too fat to fight Mission Readiness organization reportRuckPack’s mission also resonates with me.  We provide healthy alternatives to existing products in the functional beverage industry.  With the rise in childhood/adult obesity and declining health nationwide, we are happy to provide alternatives to the existing choices that Americans are consuming.  In fact, I can recall a study that was done years ago that mentioned obesity as one of the next large threats to national security.  In a recent study by Mission: Readinessthey estimate that 1 in 4 Males of age for military service are unable to join because of their body mass index and, when coupled with other disqualifying factors, 3 in 4 are unable to join the service.  The latest data is equally discouraging and shows little or no improvement across the country.

I spent a week as a teaching assistant for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans at UCLA.  This course was designed to teach Veterans the basic skills required to start and run their own businesses.  It was a lot of fun working with the students and I found the course to be particularly useful because it focused on the lowest level tactical operations of entrepreneurship.  Often, it is easy to delve into the nuances of large businesses and we often discuss large organizations like Facebook and Amazon, but is important to remember that there are thousands of people out there working hard to operate a successful small business.  I can’t say enough good things about this program.

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The fun never ends…

Derek Herrera ReWalk Exoskeleton - Boston GlobeThe past few weeks have included more down-time than I think I have had since I was initially injured two years ago.  I spent a week at UCLA with my classmates studying Business Law and Financial Modeling.  Then I went to an incredible wedding on the beach in Carlsbad.

The morning after the wedding I woke up feeling like I was having a heart attack, but wrote it off as food poisoning (late-night burrito) and made it home.  Then after flying to Boston and working for a day I had the same pains in my chest and stomach.  After waiting four hours to make sure it wasn’t indigestion and the pain didn’t go away I took an ambulance to the ER and found out it was gallstones.  I got an MRI to confirm and then decided to leave the hospital so that I could carry on with my trip (and get surgery to remove my gallbladder when I returned to CA).
I was out of the hospital long enough (about four hours) to hear that the ReWalk Exoskeleton was approved by the FDA for personal use and then began having pain again.  This time the pain was worse than any pain I have experienced, ever, and I got to spend another night in the ER before going into surgery.  The following day the surgeons did one surgery to remove my gallbladder and one surgery to remove a stuck gallstone.  I was released from the hospital the next day and drove down to DE to stay with my family for the holidays.

It was great getting to relax and spend time with my family, and as always, I was absolutely impressed by the support from everyone involved.  The team from ReWalk Robotics was particularly noteworthy, since they took care of Shaggy and spent every night in the ER/Hospital with me.  My father-in-law and brother-in-law were also incredibly helpful, and drove eight hours to come pick me up and drive me back to DE.  Similar to the experiences I have had in the past, the people I was surrounded with made a terrible situation much less stressful.

Now that I don’t have a gallbladder or any more gallstones to slow me down, I’m returning to the daily grind with that much more intensity.

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Surfaces and Gaps

One of the first things taught in training for Marine Officers is to exploit ‘gaps’ and avoid ‘surfaces’ in the enemy’s posture (originally from Sun Tzu’s Art of War).  Exactly two years ago, the enemy attempted to destroy me and deter my team from achieving our objective.  They came close, but left a small window for survival, a ‘gap’ that I have tried to exploit every minute of every day since.

Dictionary of Modern Strategy and Tactics
By Michael Keane

Since then I have experienced the lowest points of my life, and also some of the highest.  Through it all, my wife Maura has been there to love, support, challenge and inspire me.  In reality, there is nearly nothing that I have achieved completely by myself.  Of all the people who have supported me along the way, Maura has been the most influential one, by far.

I recently took a trip to San Francisco and met a few other Marines who recently started an incredible non-profit organization called the Redstone Project.  This organization is specifically designed to facilitate the transition process for any Special Operations Veterans by employing them to support international development and reconstruction efforts.  If you are interested in learning more about the organization please let me know.

Korengal Derek Herrera Sebastian Junger Santa Monica @2x

I was lucky enough to attend the opening day of the movie Korengal in LA last night.  Because it was opening day for the movie, I was also able to meet the director, Sebastian Junger, and speak with him briefly after the show.  He has done incredible work with both this film and his previous film, Restrepo, in visually showcasing and cataloging the struggles facing Veterans returning from war.  He is incredibly smart and talented, and has been able to straddle the line between journalist and Veteran, by earning the respect of the Veterans he lived with by sharing the same hardships they endured for an extended period of time.  Check out his TED Talk below to hear a very articulate description of why Veterans ‘miss’ combat.

Yesterday, at an event for the American Technion Society, where I was sharing my story with a group of people, a young lady (turning 96 years old next week) came up to me and told me that I was the most inspiring person she had ever met.  She was kind, outgoing, sharp as a tack, and has certainly met a large number of people in her lifetime.  To me, this was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.  Not for my own validation, but because it means that I was successful in communicating a small glimpse of the things that Men in my line of work do on a daily basis.  Communicating this story and advocating to garner support for those still putting it on the line every day has become incredibly important to me.  As long as I can have a positive impact in this realm, I will continue to share my story.  In my view, these Rough Men I have been so lucky to work with are the ‘surface’ of this organization, and embody what makes this country great.

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Memorial Day

Derek USNA Commissioning and Graduation 2006 @2x

Today marks eight years since I took the oath to serve my country as a Marine Officer.  People often used to tell me that a ceremony like a graduation or commissioning would not change the person I was.  I agree with this statement and don’t think that a commissioning ceremony changed anything that was central to my character.  What this ceremony did change for me was the relevance of what I was required to do.  I was no longer a student (focused primarily on preparing myself for service), and the decisions and choices I would make from that day forward would impact my life for years to come.  It has taken me a long time to truly understand what that moment would mean to me and I believe that it was the burden of responsibility that I felt more than anything else.  This may sound overwhelming, and for a split second it felt that way, but then I felt at peace.  I remember this feeling and can say that it was similar to the way I would feel before I confronted any great challenge, whether it was on the playing field, the boxing ring, or any patrol I led, but was different in the fact that I had no idea when this challenge would end.  What I experienced that day was a rite of passage, a coming of age, and a discrete change in awareness.  In hindsight, I understand much more clearly now why that day is worth celebrating and why the rite of passage is so special.

The past few weeks have been a lot of fun.  The MARSOC Foundation Fundraiser in Scottsdale, AZ was very successful.  It was great to catch with the entire MARSOC Foundation crew in Arizona, and we even had a new celebrity join the show.  Steven Seagal came out to show his support and chatted with us for a really long time about MARSOC and the MARSOC Foundation.

I went from Arizona to Bethesda, MD for a few days to participate in a study for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  I don’t have TBI but, after a lengthy interview, they said they wanted me to participate in the study so I obliged.  I also got to visit briefly with family and friends there.

World Trade Center Goldman Sachs @2x

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to New York City and spend a week there attending two business conferences.  I attended BevNet Live and TechStars Patriot Boot Camp.  They both were incredible experiences and I really enjoyed spending time in NYC.  The only thing I didn’t enjoy about NYC is that I have to take elevators to get down to the Subway.  I don’t mind that it takes me a bit longer to get in and out of the station, but every elevator I took smelled of a distinct odor.  There was only one elevator I took that didn’t smell like this, it smelled like some kind of fish.  Pretty much everything about my experience in the city was great, except for the city smells.  I don’t know when I will get to go back to NYC but I definitely look forward to it.  The TechStars PBC was held at Goldman Sachs, right across the street from the World Trade Center.  This was the first time I was able to visit the memorial there and left inspired.

Unfortunately, while I was in NYC our neighborhood was evacuated because of the wildfires.  Luckily it was only for a day and no homes in our neighborhood were damaged.

Camp Pendleton Wild Fire @2x

Lastly, today is Memorial Day.  Today is a day to remember anyone you’ve lost.  This is not meant to be a day of sorrow though.  One of my friends recently pointed out:

If you’ve lost friends and family chances are they would want you to rage and enjoy yourself. Valhalla is raising hell, so should you. Everyone be safe and tip a glass to the family.

I couldn’t agree more.  Happy Memorial Day.

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Scottsdale Gun Club

Just got into my hotel room here in Scottsdale, AZ.  I’m here for one night to support the MARSOC Foundation Fundraiser at the Scottsdale Gun Club.  This year we are taking the auction online so that even if you cannot attend in person you can bid on and win items that we are selling to raise money for the MARSOC Foundation.  Please check out the auction items, or stop by the Gun Club tonight at 6 PM.  There will also be free food and drinks.  Hopefully I will see some of you tonight.  We also have the legendary Colonel George Bristol, USMC (Ret) coming out as a guest speaker.Derek at Bahrain Royal Camel Farm @2x The second half of my trip abroad was great, until I got to the airport to come home.  I got to stay with my friend Brett and his family and I had an incredible time catching up with them.  Brett took me to see all of Bahrain’s glory, including the Tree of Life and the King’s Camel Farm.  I also attended an event where I randomly ran into some people that I haven’t seen a long time from California.  The past month I have found my personal network getting larger and larger, and somehow realizing that I am less degrees of separation from most people than I previously thought. Once I got to the airport my flight was delayed for two hours, which only gave me 45 minutes to transfer flights in Amsterdam.  I addressed this with the staff and went round for a while, until I realized I was not going to convince them to switch me to another carrier and they made the compromise of offering me free club access.  Although they guaranteed me I would make my connecting flight, which was also the only direct flight to LAX, I was surprised to find that I did make it to the flight with about ten minutes to spare.  When I presented my boarding pass, the attendant said, ‘Oh, we gave your seat away and the flight is full.  You had less than an hour to transfer planes so it is our policy to rebook you if you have less than an hour.  You have been rebooked on the next flight to LAX.’  The next flight to LAX turned out to be 12 hours later, and for my troubles they placated me with an upgrade to first class. After my slumber on the flight to Minneapolis I got off the plane and the attendant asked me where my wheelchair was.  Turns out, Delta didn’t gate check anything in Amsterdam and even though my wheelchair was touching the plane with a gate check sticker on it, they failed to load it.  This was enough drama with the trip but to top it all off, I had food poisoning as well during the last few days of my trip.  Anyways, I got home and five days later my wheelchair arrived from Amsterdam.  Horrible end to an incredible trip, but I have recovered now and am back at fighting strength. The new wheelchair I ordered months ago was finally built and delivered and is absolutely incredible.  It is truly a feat of engineering and, in my opinion, a work of art.  It is hand-made by a company called Panthera in Sweden of Carbon Fiber and weighs less than half of what my previous titanium and carbon fiber wheelchair did.  It has been great thus far and I would highly recommend the product to highly-active, independent wheelchair users. Maura and I had a great time at Easter and spent it with our friends Jackie and Sal.  Jackie took the plunge and became Catholic and Maura sponsored her throughout the process.  The ceremony was nice and we had a great night celebrating. Maura and Derek at Easter Confirmation @2x I got my first Botox Injections for my spasticity in my legs.  I am still uncertain of how well it will work, since it takes a few weeks to affect the muscles.  If it works well then I will continue getting the shots at 3-month intervals.  Also, if you are considering Botox make sure you are comfortable with large needles.  The needle used in this procedure is probably the longest one I have ever seen. A lot of people have sent me the link to the Spinal Cord Stimulator study that has received a lot of publicity recently.  It is truly groundbreaking research and was pioneered here at UCLA.  I have been intermittently participating in a similar study (with the same leading researchers) designed to use the same technology to train the bladder.  The study has been progressing, but there are still significant limitations for any doctor who is attempting to implant a Spinal Cord Stimulator for use in this manner.  I have been asking the doctor for almost a year now, with no real progress and I don’t foresee it happening anytime soon.  This treatment, like almost all others, will take years to gain FDA approval and make it’s way into mainstream use.  That being said, it is pretty incredible to see the things that they have done with the four people in the world who have the implanted devices.  I certainly hope that the treatment gets processed as soon as possible so that it can help people suffering from the same conditions I am. Business has been good.  I have been working on a lot of projects that I plan on sharing with you all sometime soon, but for now, have to keep under wraps.  I have been busy and will be traveling for the next few weeks so if you are in Phoenix, Bethesda or NYC you may see me cruising around.

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Israel – UCLA, Technion, Argo, Cybathlon

Carlton Hotel View Tel Aviv Israel HDR @2x

The past week has been incredible. I have and the opportunity to travel to Israel with classmates from UCLA and participate in an international studies course. We spent the week traveling around the country visiting businesses of different sizes and from different sectors throughout the country. Some of my favorite visits were to places like Genome Compiler, a company that has created the only software platform to program and synthesize DNA, and Given Imaging, a company that has created a camera that is the size of a pill you can swallow instead of having to have a colonoscopy. The technology was truly impressive, but even more interesting to me was the entrepreneurial spirit with which these companies were infected with.

We also got to spend time enjoying the rich history and culture of the country and visited Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea and Nazareth. It was a busy week but was incredibly enjoyable.

The day I spent in Jerusalem I was able to attend the Bar Mitzvah Dinner Party of Sam Kritzer. Sam is the young man who led and organized the incredibly successful fundraiser, Operation Rock the Warrior, about a month ago in LA. I have never been a part of any Bar Mitzvah celebrations before but it was a very special evening and I was incredibly impressed with how mature young teenagers can be. It seems like too often older generations like to give kids a hard time and question whether our future is safe in their hands, but kids like Sam give me tremendous hope for the future.

First Argo ReWalk prototype @2xI spent my last two days in Israel visiting the Technion University (Israeli Institute of Technology) where I was able to meet with some of the professors and research teams there. I was first introduced to the Technion when I found out that the inventor of the ReWalk was a graduate of this institution. I had a great visit and was able to meet with researchers who were studying things like advanced applications of high strength materials and bipedal locomotion.  Read more about my visit and the Technion on the Times of Israel blog.  Special thanks to Diana Stein Judovits of the American Technion Society for making the trip successful.

Yesterday I was able to visit the Argo Medical Technologies Headquarters in Yokneam, Israel. It was an incredible day, and I met with the research and development team, Dr. Amit Goffer (the founder), and all of the other incredible employees on the Argo team. I was able to test out the latest version of the ReWalk, which had some critical new upgrades that allowed me to walk farther and more efficiently than I ever have with the device before. Seeing the continued effort of the whole team to improve the device was truly inspiring for me, because these small tweaks made an exponential difference for me in the device. I was comfortable enough to negotiate obstacles like carpet and elevators (which you can see in the video below). By no means am I an expert yet, but it was significant progress.

While visiting with the Argo team I also learned about the first Cybathlon that will occur in 2016.  I don’t know if I will compete but I think this is the way of the future.  Singularity is much closer than most people think…

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Exams Complete

So it’s been quite some time (almost a month) since I have posted.  A lot has happened since then that has made the last three weeks fly by.

Derek Speaking at Rock the Warrior @2x
I attended two incredible fundraisers in the past two weeks.  The first one was as part of Operation Rock the Warrior, a program created by a young man named Sam Kritzer.  I was connected with Sam and his mother Jennifer through his Aunt, Diana, and heard that he wanted to help out injured service members by raising money as a part of his Bar Mitzvah project.  Sam is an incredible drummer (the youngest to be sponsored by SJC drums) and plays in a band called Melted Vinyl, that is by far the best teenage rock ban dI have ever heard.  The event was held at the Whisky a GoGo two weeks ago and was incredibly successful.

Another awesome part to this fundraiser was seeing how many celebrities came out or sent a video to show their support.  I was lucky enough to meet Walter Jones (the original black Power Ranger) and Jorge Garcia (from Lost).   It was also quite an honor to get shout outs from Chuck Norris and all of the other celebs in the video.

Walter Jones Rick Silkay and Derek @2x

After the fundraiser, I decided to go hang out with all of the guys that came up to LA for the event.  We had a good time partying and I enjoyed it until the next morning, when I had to wake up at 2AM to get ready for the LA Marathon.  I finished the race on my hand cycle in 1 hour and 57 minutes.  Not a great time by any means but not bad for my first marathon.  I had such a good time I also signed up for the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 1st.  This one I plan on taking much more seriously and devoting a lot more time to training for.

Derek LA Marathon Hand Cycle @2x
The other fundraiser I went to was also an incredible event.  At the event I met some incredibly inspiring people like Frank Portillo.  Frank showed me some of the things he and other employees of the LA Metropolitan Transport Authority have done.

I also just started working as a consultant to a company called RuckPack.  RuckPack is an energy supplement tested and created by some of my co-workers (other Marine Special Operations Officers) that gained a great amount of popularity on the TV show ‘Shark-Tank’.  The project I have been working on is branding, advertising and marketing, and I have been lucky enough to meet some other incredible people also working on the project.  Check out the RuckPack website now to see what they are all about.

I recently began having significant issues with my bladder management.  One of the perks of being paralyzed is that you have to put in a lot more effort just to do things that used to be incredibly simple.  I ended getting an infection and finding out I had some other underlying issues that I will spare you all the details of, but required me to make more than a few trips to the hospital.  I will find out more details when I follow up with the doctor in a few weeks but from the information we have right now, the outlook isn’t so great.

I also met with Dr. Lu, the Neurosurgeon I have been seeing at UCLA, and started the process for trying to get the experimental Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted.  I posted this before but will post it again since I am still rebuilding the website.  The video shows a young man named Rob Summers who has an injury similar to mine, who can now stand and move his legs after training with this device.  There is also a recent article published on the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation website about the latest batch of testing done with the device.  Of all the research I have seen for people dealing with Spinal Cord Injury, this is one of the most promising I have seen and, although incremental, has made incredible progress relative to other research being conducted.  I still believe that there will not be any ‘cure’ for many decades to come, but if the existing technologies can be integrated then there will be significant improvement in overall quality of life.  The meeting went pretty well and there is a good chance I may become the fifth individual in America to conduct this type of training.  There are zero guarantees to my participation but I certainly hope it ends up working out.

I completed my final exams for this quarter today.  I am so glad they are over.  I had one on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Today.  Now I am just trying to get all of my stuff together before I leave the country this weekend.  I am taking a trip to Israel, where I will be taking a five-day course from the Reccanati Business School at Tel Aviv University.  Then I will be flying to Bahrain to visit with one of my friends from the military who is currently stationed there.  I am really looking forward to the trip and getting an opportunity to relax and recharge.

I also got to visit with my mom for a few days since she was out here for an education conference.  We went out to dinner a couple of times and she got to see the new house.  It was a great visit and she had a great time, except for the earthquake alarm clock she got yesterday morning.

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