MARINE CORPS CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- In a matter of minutes, one Marine risked his life to save the lives of his fellow comrades.
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Velzeboer was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device (combat V) for heroic service here, March 26.
The Combat V is a bronze attachment that indicates it was received for valor.
Velzeboer, who is now assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, with EOD Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force from Feb. 2009 to April 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to his award citation, on April 30, Velzeboer and his team were investigating an improvised explosive device when the device detonated. The IED wounded him and two Marines in his team. The detonation set fire to a trailer near the injured Marines that contained 45 rocket-propelled grenades.
Knowing the ordnance would soon explode and his fellow comrades could not move, Velzeboer disregarded his personal safety and ran to the vehicle. Still dazed from the initial explosion and having the use of only one arm, he managed to drive the damaged vehicle and ignited trailer to a safe distance and escape before the ordnance detonated.
His actions ensured the safety of his wounded comrades.
"It was a privilege to serve with the best Marines I know," said Staff Sgt. Velzeboer. "If I had to do it again, I would."
He later explained, no matter what the circumstances were, he would risk his life to save the lives of the Marines around him. It was a basic instinct, which happened naturally.
"It doesn't surprise me what he did," said Paige Velzeboer, wife of recipient.
"He has always been a true Marine."
It wasn't until a few weeks later after the incident that Velzeboer explained to his wife what had happened.
"I remember getting a phone call from him," she said. He explained that he was receiving medical care for an incident that happened, but he wouldn't clarify why, she explained.
Not until later did he explain the incident.
As he explained, it was clear that his family was on his mind along with taking care of his own.
"He told me he wrote a letter to me right before riding away in the vehicle," she said. "He didn't know if he was going to make it or not."
The letter was simple and understanding.
"He wrote left handed because of the injuries inflicted on his right hand, but I was able to read it," she said. "He said that he loved me and he loved the kids and he left my number just incase someone found him."
To this day the note is kept in the medicine cabinet of their bathroom.
"I keep it as a reminder that no matter what goes wrong, there is something to look forward to," she said, while feeding their 5-month-old daughter.