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Defender of justice never wavered from his goal
Tom Sileo's op-ed column on The Unknown Soldiers: Defender of Justice

 Matt Manoukian
Courtesy of the Manoukian family
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Date published: 12/13/2012

ATLANTA

--Capt. Matt Manoukian could have done anything he wanted in life. Not only was he the son of two California judges, he was tough, good-looking, and brilliant.

"He took care of business," his father, Judge Socrates Peter Manoukian of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, told The Unknown Soldiers.

Ever since age 7, Matt dreamed of becoming a United States Marine. He believed the Marine Corps gave him a unique chance to help protect equality and justice, which he watched his parents preserve throughout his childhood.

Matt's plans took on a sense of urgency on Sept. 11, 2001. While the high school football standout was ready to enlist the next day, an injury and a major health scare forced Matt to put his dreams on hold.

"He had two surgeries the first was for a knee injury," his dad said. "Then, that summer he found out he had a tumor in his spinal cord."

Matt pursued his bachelor's degree at the University of Arizona while recovering from both operations. He studied political science and rebuilt his strength, but never wavered from his ultimate goal.

"He was a good example of 'if you work hard enough, you'll get what you want,'" Matt's father said.

Matt joined the Marine Corps in 2006, and after more than a year of training, deployed to Iraq's Al Anbar Province. But even as a young lieutenant, Matt understood that physical preparation was only one aspect of a combat deployment.

"I told him a big part of being a Marine was understanding the culture," Matt's dad said. "But he already knew that."

Matt treated Iraqi civilians with respect and began studying their language while leading his platoon on dangerous missions. He was compassionate, but also fierce and genuinely heroic.

"He had an IED [improvised explosive device] go off near him and knock him out it knocked everybody out," his father said.

As a fellow Marine lay bleeding, Matt refused to leave him behind.


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