Marine receives degree before deploying to Afghanistan
Published Jun. 29, 2011
With the Fourth of July just days away, appreciation for the troops serving our country is top of mind. Lance Corporal Gino Valconi, who is 22 years old and actively serving in the United States Marine Corps, graduated in May from Lynn’s College of Liberal Education with a degree in International Relations. On May 14, Valconi’s official graduation date, he was training for an Afghanistan deployment in Morocco and unable to walk with his peers.
On June 21, President Kevin M. Ross, dressed in full regalia, presented Valconi with his degree in a special, private ceremony held in his office on campus.
“Since I was a little kid I always wanted to join the military,” Valconi said. “The Marine Corps has the hardest training, and they have the coolest uniforms. I wanted a challenge.”
In January, the Marine Corps informed Valconi that he’d be deploying for Afghanistan this summer.
“I’ve been training non-stop for that,” said Valconi, who missed most of his senior year for the training. “I did some courses online. A lot of the teachers helped work around my schedule.”
Valconi was born in New York, moved to Puerto Rico for his high-school years and found his third home at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. In 2008, Valconi’s sophomore year at Lynn, he joined the Marine Corps.
He comes from a long line of military veterans. “My whole family has been military,” Valconi said. His great-grandfather fought in World War I, grandfather fought in World War II, in the 182 Airborne, father served the U.S. Air Force as a doctor and his older brother is joining the Navy.
Excluding the eight months of boot camp and the second semester of his senior year, most of Valconi’s education was fulfilled as a traditional student on campus.
As fate would have it, Valconi’s best childhood friend from the Dominican Republic, Erik Milz, was applying to Lynn at the same time he was. They saw each other for the first time since early childhood while waiting to fill out paperwork. After the chance meeting, the two decided to become roommates.
“The world is a really small place, and you never know,” said Valconi. “I met a lot of good people here [at Lynn]. The school has a lot of people from other countries. You get to meet them and share their cultures. It’s really nice.”
Obama Pulling Troops
Although President Obama has decided to pull troops from Afghanistan, the Marines will be some of the last soldiers to leave, said Valconi.
“They are pulling mainly supporting troops,” said Valconi. “We have mainly everything established there. But what my unit does is call the air strikes, the artillery, the naval gun fires and things like that. Even when they start pulling the troops out, you are going to keep some elements behind, some aircraft, some artillery and you need troops like us there. So we are going to be some of the last ones to leave.”
Although exactly when and where Valconi will deploy is confidential, he is ready to go when the time comes.
“I have confidence in my training and the people I’m going with,” said Valconi. “My four-man team said, ‘we’ll take care of you. You’re our son now. We will teach you.’ I’m the youngest one that’s going in this deployment, and I’m the only one who hasn’t been deployed yet. Some of them have deployed three or four times now. I know I’m with people that will help me out.”
After Afghanistan, Valconi intends to pursue a master’s degree in international business from Lynn.