Deriek Wayne Crouse, the 39-year-old Virginia Tech campus police officer who was fatally shot Thursday during a routine traffic stop, was an Iraq war veteran and retired Army reservist who cared deeply about the soldiers under his command.
He was deployed to Iraq in December 2003 and spent the next year and half driving huge trucks filled with supplies — anything from food to concrete barriers — over desert highways laden with buried explosives.
A number of drivers in his unit encountered improvised explosive devices. Crouse was one of the lucky ones.
“It’s a pretty stressful job,” said Crouse’s close friend and Army buddy, Aaron Proden.
Crouse joined the Army in 1993 and trained as an M1 tank crewman before he became a reservist in July 1996.
Two years after he returned from Iraq, Crouse joined the Virginia Tech campus police, where he was a member of the patrol division. One weekend a month, he met up with his fellow reservists with the 424th Transportation Company of Galax, Va., about 60 miles southwest of his home in Christiansburg.
“I always considered him being the type of soldier with a take-charge kind of attitude,” said Capt. Deborah Vines, Crouse’s unit commander. “He was can-do. Even if he disagreed with me, he’d let me know — respectfully — but he made it happen.”
As a platoon sergeant, Crouse was responsible for training the younger men and women in his unit on the finer points of soldiering.
“He was a good soldier, always taking care of the younger guys and teaching them what he knew,” said his fellow reservist George Slate.
Corey Miller, also a reservist with the 424th, described Crouse as an ideal noncommissioned officer.
“He knew when to joke around and when to get his game face on to get the mission moving,” Miller said.
Crouse retired from the military at the rank of staff sergeant in May, according to Capt. Jeffrey Gruidl, an Army reserve spokesman.
In an e-mail, Gruidl said that Crouse’s military decorations included the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Survivors include his wife, Tina Crouse; a son from a previous marriage, Dustin Crouse; and four stepsons.
“He was proud all around — a proud soldier and a proud police officer,” Miller said. “He believed he was here to do some good, one way or another.”