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Cpl. Nicholas Valles, chew chief, Company D, 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, spends his time in the gym when he is not working, physically and mentally pushing himself to get better every day. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores

What I’ve Learned: Nicholas Valles

3 Nov 2016 | Lance Cpl. Dave Flores Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

>I was born in Fresno, Calif., and I moved all over Fresno with my mother and brother, but that’s the place that I call home.

>I kept to myself and stayed inside because I didn’t want to get in trouble. I had to learn to grow up pretty quickly because of the environment I was raised in.

>I try to be a cool, calm and collected person. I like to sit back and listen to people more than I like to speak; it keeps me humble and down to earth.

>I grew up with Wolf Parkinson’s White Syndrome; it means that I had an extra heartbeat that I shouldn’t have. It limited the things I could do; I couldn’t even get a driver’s license because I ran the risk of going into cardiac arrest.

>I remember being a child and I would go outside and play with my brother. When we would come back inside, sometimes my heart would just keep beating faster. One of the times we had to call the paramedics and when they arrived on scene and put a needle in my arm, everything went back to normal.

>I underwent surgery my junior year of high school and the next week I was at spring training for football, ready to do the things the disease had held me back from.

>Throughout my surgery process, my mother and brother were there for me more than anyone. They would sit with me when my heart rate would pick up out of nowhere, to calm me down.

>During my senior year I knew that I wanted to be in the military, since the surgery had opened up so many doors for me.

>I didn’t know what the Marine Corps had in store for me when I first even went to a recruiter. He told me that I was over my weight limit and so for the next year after that all I did was work on dropping that weight and putting on muscle.

>My recruiter called me up a few months before my shipping date and told me that there was an opening for combat support which meant I was going to be a tanker, low altitude air defense gunner, or an amphibious assault crewman. I wanted to be on the ground with the grunts, helping them where I could.

>As an amphibious assault crewman, it’s something that I’m good at and I love to do it. I want to stay in the Marine Corps and my job field for as long as I can.

>I went on a unit deployment program to Okinawa in 2015. My favorite part was when we did house clearing exercises in South Korea. Seeing myself and other Marines work as a cohesive unit helped me realize that the training we do is important and keeps us strong as our nation’s force and readiness.

>The best part about the field is firing the gunnery of the amphibious assault vehicles we have. Sending the rounds down range from a .50 Cal is like a lullaby for me.

>Being a satellite company here at the Combat Center really creates a sense of family. Since the rest of our battalion is based in [Marine Corps Base] Camp Pendleton and there’s a small group of us here, we bond more than I feel bigger battalions would. I have made so many brothers here.

>There is no other organization like the Marine Corps. It has blessed me with seeing a world that I never thought was possible; it’s given me the chance to meet new people in even newer places. The Marine Corps saved my life, coming where I came from. The rough neighborhoods that I moved around in when I was a kid could have potentially kept me if I did not get out and join the Corps.

>When I’m not in uniform, I hit the gym as much as I can. Coming from a place of being overweight and making myself meet the standard to join the Corps, it has become my “magnificent obsession.” I feel like C.T. Fletcher saying something like that.

>When my career as a Marine comes to an end, I want to study audio engineering and become a producer for music. When I’m not at the gym, I’m listening to music. I make beats on my MacBook right now and when I can, I want to have my own studio.

>One thing that I will always do is give 100 percent and never give up. If you give up on yourself, you’re giving up on your family and your country. The spirit that we as people have is what makes America what it is.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms