(Orlando, Fla.) – Derek Hines, a former Army hockey player, was a natural born leader and soldier.
Hines made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in action on Sept. 1, 2005, and his devotion to West Point’s cadet motto, “Duty, Honor, Country,” has not gone unnoticed by the NCAA. The NCAA Honor Committee honored Hines as the 2007 Award of Valor recipient this evening during the Honors Celebration dinner at the 2007 NCAA Convention in Orlando, Fla.
The Honors Celebration, which was held in the Osceola Ballroom of the Gaylord Palms Convention Center, will air Friday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. on ESPN2. Air date and/or time is subject to change.
Hines wasn’t the biggest player on the ice for the Black Knights, but he played big according to Army head coach Brian Riley. \”Hinesy\” contributed 12 goals and 32 points during his four-year career and was perhaps better known for his unofficial fan club, whose members would show up at every home contest and bang Heinz ketchup bottles against the glass in an enthusiastic show of support for No. 7. He was named as alternate captain of the team as a senior.
After graduating from Army in 2003, Hines completed Army Ranger School and Airborne School. Eventually he was deployed to Afghanistan in March of 2005, where the constant danger provided a backdrop for Hines’ numerous acts of courage before he was killed in action six months later.
A month into his tour of duty, Hines’ unit was surprised by small-arms fire while on patrol. Hines’ men ran for cover behind a rock but left a mortar exposed 15 feet away, which Hines retrieved. Several weeks later, his unit was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while on Humvee patrol. Despite being wounded by shrapnel from the attack, Hines climbed on an abandoned Humvee and began firing a .50-caliber machine gun, a weapon he had never handled before, to help stave off insurgents and protect other members of his unit.
Then on Aug. 21, a Humvee in Hines’ unit was hit directly by a roadside bomb. Though he was able to pull the soldiers from the burning wreckage, none survived the blast. A hunt for the individual responsible for the attack led military personnel to Taliban Commander Thor Mullah Manan.
Early in the morning Sept. 1, members of Hines’ squad, Afghan soldiers and police surrounded a house in the small village of Baylough, where Manan was hiding. While plans were being finalized for the arrest, the Taliban leader came out of the house disguised in the traditional black robes of a woman. He pulled out an automatic weapon and began firing. Hines jumped out of hiding and returned fire, killing Manan, but not before being fatally wounded himself. An Afghan interpreter also was killed. Hines was 25.
Army’s Riley said news of Hines’ death was devastating to a hockey program that hadn’t lost a player to combat since the Vietnam war. To honor Hines, his initials were inscribed on the Black Knights’ helmets and in Army’s home ice along with an American flag during the 2005-06 season. The program also established the Derek S. Hines Award, which recognizes a person who over the course of time has displayed extraordinary support to the Army hockey program.
Riley said that a photo of Hines, letters from his commanding officer and other memorabilia also have been placed throughout the locker room as not only a reminder of a fallen teammate, but also as an example of leadership.
\”Derek was exactly the type of young man you hope all your cadets are when they are part of your program, but I think even more importantly, he was everything you hope your cadets will be when they leave your program,\” Riley said. \”Ultimately, when you leave this world and you can impact as many people as Derek did in such a short amount of time, that speaks volumes about the type of young man he was.\”
The Award of Valor may be presented to a coach, administrator or current or former varsity student-athlete at an NCAA member institution who when confronted with a situation involving personal danger, averted or minimized potential disaster by courageous action or noteworthy bravery. Further, for members of the armed forces confronted with a duty-related situation to be eligible for the award, the action must be clearly above and beyond the call of duty and recognized by the appropriate military command. The award is not presented automatically on an annual basis.