Gunnery Sgt. Derik Holley (left) and Staff Sgt. Matt Spry served together in Kuwait in August 2015. (Courtesy/Staff Sgt. Matt Spry)

Area Marine killed in crash was innovator who ‘saw silver lining in everything’

Gunnery Sgt. Holley was born and raised in Maryland, his mother, Sylvia Holley, said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. 

The Marines list his hometown as Dayton. According to his mother, the family relocated to Dayton when his father found work in the area after serving 21 years in the Air Force. 

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"He was a very outgoing, fun, great guy, his mother said. "A loving son." 

Gunnery Sgt. Derik Holley of Dayton was one of four Marines killed in a helicopter crash in California on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. (Courtesy/U.S. Marine Corps)

The gunnery sergeant's wife, Kasey, and their 7-year-old son live in San Diego. His parents live in Washington Twp. He has a sister who lives in Colorado. 

Marine Staff Sgt. Matt Spry, who served in the same squadron with Gunnery Sgt. Holley when they were deployed to Kuwait in August 2015, said his friend always knew how to look at “the silver lining of everything” even when he became frustrated.

"You always hear about incidents happening, and you think, 'If we train hard enough, we know our job good enough, that type of stuff's not going to happen to us,' and Derick's that individual.” 

Sgt. Spry said Gunnery Sgt. Holley knew everything about his job, inside and out. "Everyone went to him ... if they had questions about anything." 

Sgt. Spry said he had just exchanged texts with his friend on Monday. 

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"You figure something like this wouldn't happen to him because he was so experienced and knew what was going on," Sgt. Spry said. "...knew every little detail, that a mishap or an accident or something like that wouldn't happen, and it's still hard to believe that it happened." 

The two did a second deployment to Iraq in 2007. 

"You wouldn't want anyone else with you," Sgt. Spry said. "Nobody was a better candidate to be by your side dealing with all the stuff Iraq has to offer... or had to offer back in the day." 

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Sgt. Spry hopes his friend's survivors understand how loved he was. 

"I know it's never going to be the same and I wouldn't expect it to be, but I just pray that his family is able to one day keep their heads up and get through everything and that they understand the amount of support they have." 


Gunnery Sgt. Holley joined the Marines in 2003, his mother said. 

According to The Associated Press, the gunnery sergeant was assigned to the Marine Heavy Military Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465 as a CH-53 helicopter crew chief. 

Gunnery Sgt. Holley previously served at Marine Corps Base Quantico and MCAS Miramar. His military history includes two deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a deployment to Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program, and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 


Gunnery Sgt. Holley's personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (4th award), Air Medal-Strike/Flight (9th award), and the Navy and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (4th award). 

In 2015, then Staff Sgt. Holley, Marine Medium, Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (REIN), was named a recipient of the A. Bryan Lasswell Award for Fleet Support. 

"The award recognizes mid-level military and government employees who have changed outcomes for the fleet through technology innovation or in-service engineering," according to the NDIA (National Defense Industrial Association) San Diego Chapter. 

Gunnery Sgt. Holley was honored for creating a faster way to return repaired aircraft to service. He created a 72-page flow chart and discrepancy log, which led to the discovery and repair of 882 discrepancies on the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit's four CH-53 aircraft. According to a description of why he won the award, his idea worked so well that his new tool was released unedited and in its entirety to the Navy and Marine Corps fleet.

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