“If you are on his team, you are going to have a good day.” –Anonymous
Captain Matthew Patrick Manoukian was born on February 22, 1983 to Socrates Peter Manoukian and Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian. He grew up in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills with younger brothers Michael and Martin. He graduated from St. Nicholas Grammar School in Los Altos Hills (Class of 1997), St. Francis High School in Mountain View (Class of 2001), and the University of Arizona (Class of 2005) with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and a minor in Sociology.
Matthew decided to join the United States Marine Corps when he was seven years old. He attempted to enlist in the Marine Corps immediately after the events of September 11, 2001, shortly after he began college. However, spinal cord surgery and a surgery for a high school football injury to his knee delayed Matthew’s plans to enlist.
In January, 2006, following graduation from the University of Arizona, Matthew entered the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. On 31 March 2006, he graduated and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Lt. Manoukian graduated from The Basic School in October of 2006 and from The Infantry Officers Course in December of 2006. Matthew began training at Camp Pendleton in Southern California to prepare for deployment to Iraq as a Platoon Commander assigned to a mobile assault platoon made up of 35 Marines and two Navy corpsmen. Matthew put together a rigorous training program for his platoon and he always demonstrated great commitment to his Marines.
While stationed at Camp Pendleton, Matthew became a voracious student of history and political science. He became a student of Pax Americana, a concept holding that world peace could be achieved either by one worldwide dominant superpower or by achieving universal democracy. Matthew also began a long process of studying the history and cultures of the Middle East and learned to speak Arabic. He learned that the secret to succeeding in the Middle East was to show respect and trust to the local population and culture and to treat them as equals. He also understood that close interaction on a personal level meant exposing himself to greater risk of injury.
In 2007, he deployed for his first tour of duty to the town of Anah, Al-Anbar Province in Western Iraq. Matthew believed that the Marines could communicate with the locals more effectively on foot than in Humvees, so he increased the number of foot patrols. Over the course of his seven month deployment, the Marines focused on the creation of a local police force in order to bring security to the area. A police force was established and an Iraqi Judge was appointed to the District Center. As security increased and the rule of law was established, markets and bazaars opened, children went back to school and local development projects commenced. During this tour, Matthew was injured by a roadside Improvised Explosive Device and suffered a concussion. Despite his injury, he was able to put a tourniquet on the bleeding leg of a comrade and helped save his life. Matthew was evacuated to Al-Asad Air Force Base and insisted on returning to his men as soon as he was cleared for duty.
In 2008, serving as a First Lieutenant, Matthew was deployed to Al-Anbar Province for a second time. Assigned to a Military Transition Team, Matthew and his team worked with local Iraqi authorities to secure the western border with Syria, a country in which his paternal grandfather had lived for 15 years. Matthew was amazed to see the progress that had been accomplished between his tours. There were police in most of the villages and there were local representatives who worked in a legal capacity to settle grievances between families, prosecute criminals and enforce laws. Matthew was proud to have played a role in that transformation. He helped to establish the rule of law and to facilitate and increase trade and commerce. The Marines and the Iraqis also successfully worked together to rebuild and open schools, police departments and courthouses.
Upon his return home in April 2008, Matthew was screened to undergo training in the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Out of the 100 Marines who entered the program, only 40 graduated in February of 2009, and Matthew finished among the top Marines.
After completing this training, he joined MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion assigned to Camp Pendleton. In 2010, serving as a Captain, Matthew deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan charged with the mission of working to unify local tribal leadership with District level governance. When Matthew and his team arrived in the Sangin District in Afghanistan, there was no judicial system and no local authorities to enforce the laws. Matthew and his team worked with the local leaders and the District Governor to establish a local police force and to bring law and justice to the area. The villagers in the area had no hope because if they did not work for the insurgents, they would be killed. If they reported the names of the insurgents, there was no Afghani legal system in place to prosecute and punish the insurgents. When Matthew returned home in April of 2011, he said that his work with MARSOC to help establish the rule of law in Afghanistan made him realize the great importance of a fair legal system in order for society to function. Matthew decided to apply to law school in order to help his community and to help society.
After returning from his third deployment to Afghanistan, Matthew continued with his MARSOC training. He wanted to return to Afghanistan again with his team to continue the work he had been doing in the villages but was told that he was going to be assigned as the Battalion Executive Officer. Matthew was very grateful when the MARSOC Command agreed with Matthew’s request and reassigned him to a team to redeploy to Afghanistan in May 2012.
In August, 2012, a newspaper article published in the San Diego Union Tribune described the work of Matthew’s team and the Military’s Village Stabilization Operation in Afghanistan in which special operators from all services participate. The special operations forces arm and train local governments against Taliban infiltration as well as build infrastructure and establish local police departments and judicial systems. Matthew’s team made great advancements in stabilizing the area around Puzeh in the Sangin District of Helmand Province, institutionalizing the beginnings of law and order and working to unify local tribal leadership with District level governance. The San Diego Union Tribune article describes the remarkable efforts of MARSOC and Matthew’s team and can be found at Marine Special Operators Fight, Live Among Afghans.
Captain Matthew Patrick Manoukian was killed in combat in Afghanistan on 10 August 2012. Matthew was an amazing and dedicated Marine, an outstanding leader, and a dearly beloved son and brother. Matthew touched the lives of so many in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, California, the United States, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Matthew was dedicated to service of his country and his Marines. Matthew brought every Marine back from three tours. He loved his Marines and he was always beside them. Matthew received many Medals and Commendations including two Purple Hearts and two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals. Matthew was humble and he never talked about his accomplishments or awards.
Matthew planned to begin law school at Golden Gate University in August of 2013. In his personal statement, Matthew indicated that he believed in constant self-development and improvement and actively sought out new challenges. Matthew stated that because he had witnessed what a lack of order and chaos can do to good people, to their society, and to their way of life, he wanted to enter the field of law to help and contribute to the overall development and betterment of the team, the community and society.
Captain Matthew Patrick Manoukian has been selected by the Judicial Council of California to receive the Stanley Mosk Defender of Justice Award on behalf of the armed forces members he represents and for his sacrifice to the cause of justice.
2012 Distinguished Service Awards Announced
–The Manoukian Family