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Face of Defense: Marine Follows Family Heritage

By Marine Corps Cpl. Ned Johnson
Regimental Combat Team 2

SANGIN, Afghanistan, Sept. 3, 2010 – Marine Corps Sgt. Dominick Valerio said he joined the military because the men in his family have always defended America’s freedom.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Sgt. Dominick Valerio, a squad leader with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, teaches a casualty evacuation class in Sangin, Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2010. Valerio views every moment with his squad as an opportunity to teach them something new, preparing them for the challenges that await them. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ned Johnson

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“My grandfather served in World War II, and both my uncles are Vietnam vets,” said Valerio, a squad leader here with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “My brothers also serve in the army.”

Having served in the Marine Corps Security Forces, Valerio said he likes teaching young Marines. Though he always knew he would end up in the military, Valerio said the Marine Corps’ “dragon slayer” commercial convinced him to become a Marine.

Valerio said he wanted to emulate a member of his family who serves as a Marine infantryman, known in military vernacular as a “grunt.”

“My brother-in-law is with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, and is a ‘grunt,’” said Valerio, a 22-year-old native of Phelps, New York. “I knew I wanted to be an infantryman and I told the recruiter I would do nothing else.”

After completing basic infantryman training Valerio was given the opportunity to receive advanced training when he elected to work in security forces rather than a regular infantry line company.

“As a ‘Security Forces’ Marine,” Valerio said, “I went to the Urban Assault Leader’s Course, Joint Fires Observer Course, Infantry Squad Leader’s Course, and a ton of other schools.”

Lance Cpl. Ryan Kinne, a team leader with Company K, said he appreciates Valerio’s mentorship.

“He will teach you anything you want to know, if you ask,” said Kinne, a 21-year-old native of San Antonio. “He’s given us classes on calling for fire, medical evacuation procedures and lots of other things.”

Valerio said his teaching style is anything but conventional.

“I like to use physical training to teach Marines,” he said. “We might go on a run and I can tell when everyone needs a break, so I’ll stop and teach them something important.”

Valerio said he also incorporates other types of physical training into his instruction, like carrying a litter and other tasks Marines may have to perform under fire.

In Afghanistan, Kinne said, Valerio’s training sessions have had a positive impact on the battlefield.

“We have taken casualties and we have had to transport them to a landing zone and call in a casualty report,” he said. “That’s where the training paid off.”

Kinne said Valerio’s “people” skills help him to connect with his Marines.

“He is very well-spoken,’ Kinne said of Valerio. “He can explain something no matter who you are.”

Other Marines who know Valerio, like Lance Cpl. Joshua Matthews, a team leader with Company K, say his physical courage, military skills and teaching ability have gained him the respect of his subordinates and superiors.

But Valerio also has earned his Marines’ trust because of his moral courage, Matthews said.

“My favorite thing about him as a squad leader is that he sticks up for his Marines,” Matthews said of Valerio. “Even at the risk of getting himself in trouble, he has stood beside Marines that he thought were in the right.”


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