Derek grew up in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, to include a few years in a small Minnesota town. In a family with meager means, he would fill a great deal of his time taking off to the woods where he found thrills by exploring the unknown. Derek searched for adventure in the mountains and forest of the Pacific Northwest. He enjoyed climbing trees and collecting pine sap on his clothes. One of Derek’s fondest memories was backpacking deep into the mountains of Olympic National Park with his uncle and swimming in the mountain lakes that were stabbing cold yet refreshing!
Derek’s love of adventure was also inspired by the postcards he received from his great aunt Dolly’s world travels. Some postcards were actual photos of his aunt; one showed her riding a camel in Egypt with the pyramids as a backdrop. In another, she was standing in front of the Great Wall of China. His heart filled with memories from the woods and his mind wandering to the wonders of the world, Derek has lived his life in pursuit of that breathtaking feeling of jumping into a glacial lake. We are #assembledforadventure.
What inspires us about Derek?
Derek served a 23-year career in the United State Marine Corps (USMC). He earned his wings as a Naval Flight Officer in the F-18. Beyond breaking the sound barrier in the jet, he most enjoyed low-level flight through terrain where he truly felt the jet’s speed and power. As a Marine, he traveled the world from teaching history in the urban Netherlands, to providing air support in the deserts of the Middle East and the mountains of Afghanistan, narrowly escaping the jaws of crocodiles in Northern Australia, and more. Derek is an original member of 1st Raider Battalion and Marine Special Operations Company Delta (MARSOC). In a group performing at the highest level on long marches across rugged terrain, he discovered the same comfort he did when he was hiking the rugged Cascade Mountains as a child.
Following an F-18 flight to a WWII reunion, Derek met the Founder of Project Recover in 2004. This small group took yearly self-funded trips to the island nation of Palau to search the jungles and the waters for Americans still missing in action (MIA) from World War II. Derek brought a number of skill sets to the mission to include his qualifications as a SCUBA diver. After 15 years of volunteering and support, Derek became CEO of the organization that now executes multiple missions a year, all over the world, using some of the most advanced technologies.
“When an individual dons the cloth of our nation and swears an oath to the Constitution, we, as Americans, make a promise to that individual and their family that should they fall in battle, we will do everything we can to return them home. That promise does not have an expiration date.”
- Derek Abbey, PhD, Project Recover President & CEO
The mission of Project Recover is to search for, locate, recover, and bring home the over 81,000 American service members still missing in action (MIA) from WWII and since. The families of our MIAs deserve answers, closure, and the healing that follows after the return of their loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their county. Through our mission we also strive to educate our current and future generations on the history, people, places, and stories of the past and present, and with the latest technology involved in our worldwide missions. Lastly, our values guide us as an organization, and personally. We hope to inspire gratitude, hope, unity, and respect across the nation through our work.
Derek lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife, Michelle. They chose Bend as their home because of the easy access to the snowboarding and snowshoeing around Mt. Bachelor and the Cascades, paddling the Deschutes River, hiking, and biking the Deschutes National Forest, and even finding adventure among the 80+ city parks. It’s all about cultivating awe and inspiring gratitude for the plethora of gifts we enjoy every day.
Follow Derek on Instagram at @121cosmo and @bendforestexperience and follow Project Recover on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn at @projectrecover.
Do you like to walk, hike, ruck or run and want a fun way to support the Project Recover mission? Register for the Mission Miles 2023 miles and fundraising challenge happening through the month of September!