When Derek Abbey was 17 years old, he joined the Marine Corps, a decision he claims, “saved his life.” Raised by a single mother who had passed away four years previously, Abbey was a rambunctious youth in need of new purpose.
After enlisting, Abbey attended Oregon State University to earn his bachelor’s degree. He served with flight operations during Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later deployed twice more to Iraq and once to East Asia. Abbey eventually became the Air Officer for the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion and deployed in Afghanistan.
In 2009 Abbey earned a slot in the Marine Corps Advanced Degree Program. He attended the University of San Diego for his master’s in higher education leadership. During his years at the University of San Diego, he worked with the school and other universities to provide better education guidance for the military members.
In 2011 Abbey became the director of the Train the Trainer School. He trained staff, instructors, and leaders of 93 training units throughout the Marine Corps.
After 23 years, Abbey retired from the Marine Corps as a major in 2014. He pursued his doctorate in leadership studies degree from the University of San Diego, where he focused his research on improving access to higher education for Veterans. Abbey also served as a senior director for the Travis Manion Foundation.
In 2019 became the president and CEO of Project Recover, where he directs efforts to identify and repatriate the remains of American soldiers killed in action during World War II. He has appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown: GI Josh.
During his service, Abbey earned a Meritorious Service Medal, an Air Medal, a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Gold Star, a Combat Action Ribbon, and a Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Star.
Thank you for your service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Fact checker: Samantha Knapp
Graphic artist: Aiman Alhuda