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Lovato awarded Bronze Star before friends and family in Montrose

Matt Hildner
Daily Press Writer   Thursday, September 07, 2006

MONTROSE — When Sgt. Eubaldo Lovato volunteered with four other Marines and weathered an hour and a half long firefight behind enemy lines to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade, he figured he was just doing his duty.

But Lovato’s heroics on Nov. 15, 2004 in insurgent-laden Fallujah, Iraq, went above and beyond that standard in the eyes of his superiors. It earned him a Bronze Star decorated with a “V” for valor shown in combat, and eventually lead him to the Centennial Plaza stage Thursday night where he was recognized before more than a hundred friends and family.

“It really took me by surprise because, really, I was just doing my job,” said the 24-year-old Lovato, who grew up in Montrose.

Lovato was in Fallujah with the Marines during Operation al-Fajr that aimed to secure the city in the run up to Iraq’s 2005 elections, when fellow platoon member Travis Desiato fell to enemy fire.

After multiple attempts to retrieve Desiato using tank support and shoulder-launched weapons failed, Lovato and the other volunteers stepped up. Lovato and company had to make their way to Desiato by going room to room through buildings in the battle zone. Enduring what the citation called “intense enemy machine gun fire,” they used hand grenades and small arms fire to fight off the insurgents and reach the fallen Marine.

“You don’t really know what to expect when you get into a situation like that,” Lovato said.

At the time of the rescue, Lovato had been in Iraq for five months and in the Marines for three years. That experience placed Lovato — then a corporal — in a position of leadership for many of the Marines like Desiato, who arrived in Iraq fresh from boot camp.

Col. Stephen Brown, deputy commander of the Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, presented Lovato with the honor.

“This young man will never have to worry about whether he made a difference on the planet. At the age of 24, he already knows he made a difference. Very few of us can say this,” Brown said.

Col. Brown mentioned his regret that neither Lovato’s commanders nor fellow squad members could be in attendance. The 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, of which Lovato was a part, is currently in Lebanon, helping Americans evacuate during the hostilities there.

Despite their absence, however, Lovato was joined at the ceremony by a family with a long tradition in the Marine Corps.

Lovato’s father, Dicky, served in the Marines during the Vietnam War as did three of Dicky’s brothers. That tradition was at the front of his thoughts as he watched his son wade through well-wishers Thursday night.

“It makes it a lot sweeter,” he said of his son’s award. “It makes me that much more proud of the tradition that we do have.”

While Lovato’s mother, Kathy, knew her son had to venture behind enemy lines, she didn’t know of his role in the rescue until the family was informed of the award.

“He wouldn’t tell us a whole lot,” she said. “He’d just say he’s doing good, everybody’s doing good — send more packages.”

Lovato, who returned stateside in January, is finding his way back into the rhythms of civilian life, although he remains in the Marine Corps’ Individual Ready Reserve.

“It feels good. It’s calm,” he said.

He currently lives in Carbondale where he commutes to his job every day as a construction worker in Aspen.

In the fall, Lovato plans to enroll in Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs to study history education.

Contact Matt Hildner via e-mail at

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