WEST POINT, NY, UNITED STATES
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Gordon
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Five (NMCB-25)
The Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW)– Safe Harbor program coordinates the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and provides help resources and support to their families and caregivers. Part of their support is through the adaptive sports program.
“I was about 20 feet away from a 7-ton when it hit an IED, and kicked me down off this little hill we were on,” said Derbak.
Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Gordon | WEST POINT, N.Y.(June 17, 2016) -- Navy veteran Joseph Derbak, a retired Hospital
Derbak suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from the explosion, but wouldn’t let it stop him. Refusing to abandon his team, he continued on, enduring further injury the next day.
“I had a grenade come right over my shoulder and hit a Marine right in front of me and cooked off all of his ammo,” he continued. “It ended up injuring six others on top of it.”
Despite his injuries, Derbak would not – could not – leave his Marines.
“They didn’t have anybody to relieve me out there for me to medevac myself back, so it was kind of a choice I had to make whether to abandon my Marines or stay out there to help them,” Derbak explained. “So, kind of flip a coin and see what happens.”
Derbak’s efforts resulted in saved lives and a decoration for valor, but the effects of the deployment took their toll after his return. He began to lose feeling in both legs as a result of the TBI and was showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While getting treatment for his injuries, a chance encounter would change his life dramatically and provide a new goal for the driven Sailor.
“When I got back I was having some serious problems. One of my buddies working at a clinic was part of Safe Harbor said to me, ‘I know you had a combat injury, let me put you in contact with this person,’ so I went to that person and they in turn registered me for Safe Harbor,” said Derbak.
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