Erasmo Valles - Graduate

Jun 16, 2011
Erasmo Valles
Erasmo Valles - Graduate

Erasmo Valles has been serving others since he was a boy.

With his dad working in the oil fields and his mother taking care of the house, Valles had to quit playing high school sports and get a job to help support his family. After high school, Valles served his country by becoming a Marine.

“I always wanted to be in the military,” Valles says. “Everyone always told me the Marines were the best, and I wanted to be the best and serve my country.”

As a mortarman, Valles was stationed with 2nd Battalion 7th Marines in Okinawa, Japan for his first tour. He was forced to grow up quickly as he adapted to the different types of people, food and lifestyles he encountered during his six month deployment. 

After his enlistment was up, Valles attended college in New Mexico where he met his future wife, Sandra. In 2002, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, which opened the door for him to become a police officer.

Valles reenlisted in the Marines, was commissioned as an Infantry Officer and was deployed to Iraq as an infantry officer. Even though he was leaving behind his pregnant wife, Valles felt a commitment to his country.

Valles and his Marines were patrolling in a Humvee when they drove over a mine. The explosion sent the vehicle flying and ejected the other Marines. Disoriented, Valles looked for his weapon and radio, only to find they had been destroyed.

Instinctively trying to escape the wreckage to take cover from any further attacks, Valles realized his legs were pinned down by the engine block. “My first thoughts were that I would never see my baby or wife,” Valles says.

His Marines quickly came to his rescue, got him to an ambulance and then on a helicopter. He was in surgery within an hour.

“It’s funny, I thought they needed me to protect them, but they ended up protecting me,” Valles recalls. “If it wasn’t for my Marines, I would have died that night.”

Valles lived with his wife and baby in several hospitals over an eight-month period in 2004, while undergoing 12 surgeries. At that point, doctors insisted on amputating both of his legs. Valles refused to go down without a fight.  After enduring another 10 surgeries and combating life threatening infections, Valles had no choice but to let them amputate his left leg.

Using his experience and education to overcome the hardship, Valles became a Family Readiness Officer. He worked with nearly 100 families as they dealt with the distress surrounding loved ones’ combat injuries or death.

“It opened my eyes to the other side of a Marine’s deployment,” Valles says. “It showed me the true strength of military families.”

As a fellow with the Wounded Warrior Program, Valles worked in Rep. Ciro Rodriguez's office in San Antonio, Texas. He acted as an intermediary between veterans and government agencies.

Valles said the veterans and families he worked with brought a sense of "reality" to his life. He said the reality is that these service men and women need our help; they stepped up when our country needed them, and it's important that we do the same for them.

After leaving the fellowship program, Erasmo Valles accepted a position as a Recovery Care Coordinator with the Armed Forces Foundation in Washington, DC.