Born: January 11, 1985
Fallen: September 4, 2006
Lance Corporal Eric P. Valdepeñas attended to Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, RI and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Ayer, MA. On September 4, 2006, he became a RI fallen hero while conducting combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq.
Marine Lance Corporal Eric Valdepeñas was raised in Seekonk, MA and graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, R.I., in 2003. He was also a full-time student pursuing an engineering degree at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, which he postponed to fight in Iraq.
One of the chaplains at Hendricken while Valdepeñas was a student remembered the first time he met Eric, where he was known to some as “the kid who always says grace.” Eric was the young man who never ate without first thanking God, even if it was for a government-issued “Meal Ready to Eat” in the Iraqi desert, was Eric.
His habitual grace-saying wasn’t the only one thing that distinguished Valdepeñas from his fellow students at Hendricken. He was also a talented Lacrosse player, and the Varsity co-captain who led his team to a state championship as well as a tireless history student.
Eric came from a family of eight children and made the commitment to join the Marines after 9/11. During his stay in Iraq he repeatedly risked his life to ensure that a sick Iraqi child was kept alive so she could eventually come to the US for life-saving surgery.
His unit arrived in Fallujah in March 2006, and he was scheduled to return home to New England in late October 2006. On September 4, 2006, he became a RI fallen hero while conducting combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq.
A few months later, Valdepeñas was in the news again. The Boston Globe published a story about a heroic group of Marines, Valdepenas included, whose mission took an unusual turn when they encountered an ill baby in an Iraqi house. Mariam was born with a rare condition that caused her bladder to develop outside her body. The Marines took photos of her tiny body to bring back to their base doctors, and began pulling together the entire platoon to save the little girl.
The Marines spent the summer reaching out to friends and family at home to raise money to bring Miriam to Boston for life-saving surgery but he would never get to see the mission completed. Little more than a month later, Baby Mariam was finally flown to Boston where she had a successful surgery to repair the rare defect.
Lance Corporal Valdepeñas received numerous honors, including a purple heart.
Bishop Hendricken has worked hard to honor all three of these aspects of his life and to keep his memory alive for future students. Two awards – The Lance Corporal Eric P. Valdepenas Unsung Hero Award for an outstanding Lacrosse player as well as a Memorial Scholarship Book Award, also in his name, for a student particularly interested in history – is awarded to students finishing their junior year at Hendricken who are carrying on part of his legacy.
He leaves his father, Dr. Jesus Bernal Valdepeñas; his mother, Anne-Marie; two brothers, and five sisters. He was 21. In June 2009 the Seekonk Post Office was renamed the LCpl. Eric Paul Valdepeñas Post Office in honor of Eric.