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Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Zackery Wallick knows what it is like to be in combat and under attack. The 24-year-old also knows what it is like to be a hero, although he modestly doesn’t consider himself to be one.
The Dundee native, a former Marine corporal, is the proud recipient of Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with the V (combat distinguishing device), the fifth-highest award for his service.
He earned the medal for his heroic actions Aug. 12, 2010, in Marjah, Afghanistan, where he was serving as a first team leader of a regimental combat team engaged in combat with the Taliban.
According to his certificate, Wallick was calling in a helicopter to airlift a wounded Marine from the area. As the helicopter attempted to land, an enemy grenade was thrown at his team from over a nearby compound wall.
“With complete disregard for his own safety, he altruistically threw himself on the Marine closest to the explosion, shielding him from the blast,” states his certificate, signed by Brigadier General Joseph L. Osterman, commanding general of the First Marine Division Forward.
Neither Wallick nor the Marine he shielded suffered any injuries from the blast, although both were examined for potential concussions. “Most of the shrapnel hit my protective gear,” he explained.
“I didn’t really think about it, it just kind of happened,” said Wallick. “And I was never scared for myself, I was always scared for my Marines.”
He remembers the blast, and that the day was hot – about 140 degrees – during the mid-afternoon combat operation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His unit of 10 Marines was fighting a group of about eight Taliban when the grenade was thrown from behind a wall.
A veteran of more than 70 combat patrols with more than 20 separate engagements with enemy forces, Wallick and his unit resumed their operations the following day.
His grandmother, Shirley Everhart of Sugarcreek, said Wallick didn’t initially say much about the award. But she and her husband Howard, also a former Marine, knew it was a substantial recognition.
A 2006 graduate of Garaway High and the Buckeye Career Center, Wallick worked at Belden Brick Co. and McDonald’s Restaurant in Sugarcreek following graduation.
Wallick joined the military because “I wanted to help out the country.” He chose the Marines based on a television commercial that impressed him, and the fact that his grandfather had been one.
“From what everyone said, it’s the hardest branch to be in, so I wanted to tackle that,” Wallick said. He saw it as an opportunity to prove himself, and to be challenged.
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