Captain Derek Liu, US Marine Corps

Derek&Nicola SOF Gala2015After graduating from college, Derek joined the Marines as a signals intelligence officer. While on active duty, he was deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006, stationed in Fallujah and Ramadi. He also served as the Marine liaison at the National Security Agency (NSA) Kunia in Hawaii for the 3rd Radio Battalion. While running near his base in Kaneohe, Hawaii, on March 17, 2007, Derek suffered heart failure which resulted in a severe anoxic brain injury. After a 58-day coma, he came back to consciousness. He has had to relearn almost everything in his recovery, including walking, eating, and speaking. The neurological damage also caused some vision loss as well as significant cognitive impairment.

Originally from Southern California, Derek now lives in Northern California with his wife, Nicola. The couple met in England in 2001 during their studies at the London School of Economics and got married in Kaneohe in July 2006. Nicola, a London native, resigned from her job in England to become a full-time caregiver to Derek when he became disabled. She returned to school since and graduated with her Juris Doctorate in Tax Law from Santa Clara University in May 2015. Sentinels of Freedom supported her in her endeavor to become a lawyer.