While fighting in Afghanistan Capt. Derek Herrera of the US Marines was hit by sniper fire and was subsequently paralyzed from the chest down. That did not stop Capt. Herrera from living his life, and recently he accepted his Bronze Star for bravery by walking across the stage using a revolutionary robotic exoskeleton system.
Capt. Herrera became the first person in the USA to walk using the ReWalk system from ReWalk Robotics Ltd. He did so in front of a crowd of 300 Marines at Camp Pendleton while accepting his Bronze Star for bravery.
From the LA Times:
Capt. Derek Herrera had vowed to leave the Marine Corps the same way he enterred it: on his own feet. Herrera, 30, a Naval Academy graduate, is set to retire next week. He is studying for an MBA at UCLA and plans to become involved in helping veterans.
“Your drive and determination are great and you will continue to do great things,” Lt. Col. John Lynch told Herrera. Some 300 Marines and other guests watched in respectful silence as Herrera, his wife Maura, and his service dog Shaggy arrived at the ceremony. The only sound was the soft whirring of the robotic system’s motors.
Herrera is the first person in the country to purchase a ReWalk system, according to the manufacturer, ReWalk Robotics Ltd.
An account in the Associated Press described ReWalk as a robotic exoskeleton system aimed at allowing people with spinal cord injuries to stand and walk. The device “consists of leg braces with motion sensors and motorized joints that respond to subtle changes in upper-body movement and shifts in balance,” the AP said.
The MARSOC Foundation, which helps members of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, raised money to buy the $69,500 system for Herrera. Other companies are working on competing products that are in the testing phase.
There are just so many things going on in this story I don’t know where to begin. On the one hand we’ve taken such a leap forward in the age of technology, and the science geek in me wants to know everything there is to know about this revolutionary ReWalk System.
On the other hand I’d love to sit here for days and talk about how fortunate we are as a nation to have men like Capt. Derek Herrera among us. With the spirit and determination to not let something as catastrophic as being paralyzed stop him from living his life. I don’t even know this man’s political leanings, but I’ll tell ou right now that if he runs for office one day in my district I’ll vote for him. Because I want men like him in office, with that level of determination there’s no telling what we could accomplish as a country. Truly a moving story.