A Purple Heart in Public Works

by Brigitte Rox, CCAD Public Affairs

Rendering

SGT Philip Derise received his Purple Heart for wounds sustained while defending his nation in Iraq, 2006. Photo by Ervey Martinez. (RELEASED).

Corpus Christi, TX (April 9, 2014) – Seven years after being wounded in Iraq, civilian employee Philip Derise was awarded a Purple Heart amongst his family, friends, and colleagues on Friday, April 4.

“The whole of our nation is going to recognize a hero today with a well-earned recognition of personal sacrifice in the field of battle,” said COL Billingsley Garner Pogue III, commander of Corpus Christi Army Depot, where the event was held.

“It is a great day for Naval Air Station Corpus Christi,” COL Pogue said. CCAD is a tenant on the joint base command. COL Pogue was asked to officiate the ceremony, reflecting that collaboration.

Staff Sergeant Philip Derise was instrumental during Operation Iraqi Freedom where he served as a Soldier, a mentor, and as an effective leader. His achievements include more than 90 raids, 46 joint patrols, 21 riverine patrols, and a number of leadership roles and escort missions.

“This is a Soldier who put himself in harm’s way willingly for multiple deployments and multiple missions,” COL Pogue said. “I’m not a hero but I’ve served with heroes and it is just an honor for me to participate in this ceremony, and not just for Sgt. Derise. I think he would share with you that it’s not just about him. It’s about all those that he’s served with: all the fellow Purple Heart recipients that have bled and been injured for our nation, for our safety, for our security, for our way of life; those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

In 2006, Derise was deployed to Iraq as part of Echo Company, 1st Battalion 67th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. During an escort assignment on July 12, Derise’s vehicle detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), injuring the three men on-board. Despite his apparent trauma and injuries, Derise ensured the safety and well-being of his entire crew.

“I didn’t really worry about myself,” Derise said. “That’s what they teach you: to make sure everybody else is okay first.”

He would later learn that he received severe optic nerve damage to his right eye, traumatic brain injury, and multiple skull fractures from the incident.

During the ceremony, Derise read off the names of several friends who received their Purple Hearts posthumously. 

“It’s bittersweet because there were 13 guys that were with me over there that earned this also and they’re not here.”

He considers himself lucky to receive his award amongst his family and loved ones.

“I’m still here,” Derise said, humbly. “I have a 5-year-old. I have an 8-month-old. Those are my Purple Hearts. That’s my reward. I get to be here. They don’t.”

After completing his enlistment in 2007, Derise began working as an Environmental Protection Specialist (EPS) at Fort Hood, Texas. In 2010, he worked as an EPS at CCAD. He currently works at the NASCC Public Works Department as an EPS. He lives in Ingleside with his wife and two daughters.

Purple Heart Family

Philip Derise stands with his family, claiming that his two daughters are his real purple hearts. Photo by Ervey Martinez. (RELEASED).

 

Designated a Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for rotary wing aircraft, Corpus Christi Army Depot ensures aviation readiness through overhaul, repair, modification, retrofit, testing, recapitalization, and modernization of helicopters, engines and components. This effort includes world-wide on-site field maintenance teams, analytical crash investigations and chemical material process facilities. CCAD serves as a depot training base for active duty Army, National Guard, and reserve units. CCAD, as South Texas' largest industrial employer, employs more than 5500 personnel and contractors providing an overall economic impact of more than $1.14 Billon to the local community.