CARLSBAD — Retired Sgt. Maj. Walter Valentine, 92, wakes up every morning and walks and jogs 1 ½ miles around the Carlsbad Flower Fields. In the afternoon, he heads to the gym for a workout.
He enjoys spending time volunteering with the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that takes World War II-era veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the various war memorials. He enjoys the company of his friends at the Carlsbad senior center.
But for more than 30 years, Valentine served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps, amassing a staggering resume of service that dates back to World War II, where as a corporal, he witnessed the historic flag raising during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
It was his service to his country that compelled State Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) to name Valentine as the district’s Veteran of the Year. The state honored Valentine and other veterans earlier this year in Sacramento at the ninth annual Veterans Recognition Luncheon.
“It was truly an honor to receive this award,” Valentine said. “Serving in the military was my great love, next to my family.”
A representative of Chavez’s office said that each year, the office receives dozens of nominations from veterans with decorated careers. Valentine’s service record surpassed all of them.
“We’ve known Sgt. Maj. Valentine for quite some time, but in searching for our veteran of the year we had the nominees get a bio so we could understand the full extent of their service,” said Tom Garcia, Chavez’s senior field representative. “When we saw it, nobody came close to the length of service and areas of battles that he was involved with, including Iwo Jima. His was truly a stellar record of service.”
Garcia said he recently bought a poster of the marines posting the flag at Iwo Jima, and brought it to the Carlsbad Senior Center to have Valentine sign it.
“He’s an incredible guy,” Garcia said.
Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Christmas Day in 1925, Valentine enlisted in the Marine Corps just shy of his 18th birthday in November 1942.
Following boot camp and a transfer to San Diego, he was “shipped out” to the Southwest Pacific, where he completed combat training in America Samoa in 1943 and participated in battles in Papua New Guinea and Guam as a scout sniper before 1945, when he participated in the now-legendary Battle of Iwo Jima.
Valentine, then a sergeant, was injured in that battle and returned to Guam.
Valentine went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars before retiring at Marine Corps. Base Camp Pendleton on June 30, 1973. He continued to serve in a civilian capacity on the base for nearly 40 years as a coordinator and moderator of the base’s pre-retirement seminar.
His list of medals and citations included a Purple Heart, multiple bronze stars, a Gold Star, Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V,” and a United Nations service medal, among many others.
He lived in Carlsbad with his wife, Claire, until she passed away in 2015. The couple had six children, 12 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
Valentine said now he does what he can to help his fellow veterans, both those who served with him and those leaving the military now. He is helping to raise money for several efforts, including for a replica of the Iwo Jima monument that is planned for the back gate at Camp Pendleton.
“We may never be able to do enough for our veterans,” he said. “I think the world of my battalion and everyone who serves in the military.”