Rockne Roll/News-Register##Mike Conklin of Grangeville, Idaho examines a column bearing names of U.S. Army veterans from Willamina, Sheridan and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde at the West Valley Veterans Memorial following the tribe s annual Memorial Day observance in Grand Ronde on Monday, May 30.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Mike Conklin of Grangeville, Idaho examines a column bearing names of U.S. Army veterans from Willamina, Sheridan and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde at the West Valley Veterans Memorial following the tribe's annual Memorial Day observance in Grand Ronde on Monday, May 30.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Albert Miller, left, and Clyde Van Atta were among those whose names were added to the West Valley Veterans Memorial during the Confeterated Tribes of Grand Ronde s Memorial Day Observence at the memorial in Grand Ronde on Monday, May 30.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Albert Miller, left, and Clyde Van Atta were among those whose names were added to the West Valley Veterans Memorial during the Confeterated Tribes of Grand Ronde's Memorial Day Observence at the memorial in Grand Ronde on Monday, May 30.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Joel Dulashanti, a former U.S. Army sniper and Regional President of the Purple Heart Association, speaks at the Confeterated Tribes of Grand Ronde s Memorial Day Observence at the West Valley Veterans Memorial in Grand Ronde on Monday, May 30. Dulashanti lost his right  leg below the knee during combat in Afghanistan.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Joel Dulashanti, a former U.S. Army sniper and Regional President of the Purple Heart Association, speaks at the Confeterated Tribes of Grand Ronde's Memorial Day Observence at the West Valley Veterans Memorial in Grand Ronde on Monday, May 30. Dulashanti lost his right leg below the knee during combat in Afghanistan.
By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Veteran tells a gripping story of survival

One-by-one, people who attended the event on a sun-splashed afternoon, made their way toward Dulashanti to express their gratitude for the sacrifice he made.

Army Sgt. Dulashanti was the keynote speaker during a 90-minute tribute to veterans, with special focus on those living in the West Valley communities of Grand Ronde, Sheridan and Willamina.

A Beaverton native, Dulashanti is a Purple Heart recipient.

He has spoken extensively in the region, representing the Portland chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. It was his first time attending the Grand Ronde event.

Dulashanti was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, and he excelled as a sniper with the 73rd Cavalry Regiment.

“We were in a firefight every day,” he recalled. “Someone was always getting blown up.

“I lost a lot of brothers. Every day was crazy.”

One day, in particular, will forever be etched in Dulashanti’s mind.

His platoon loaded into Humvees to search for a pair of armed assailants fleeing on a moped.

When they reached the area where the enemy was last sighted, they came to a halt and heard the order come down ... “Snipers go out. Take ‘em out so we can go home.”

It was 110 degrees. Dulashanti and his comrades were working their way through tall grass when he smelled body odor. Within moments, he was engaged in a close range firefight.

“You either go home or they go home,” he said. It was as simple as that.

In an instant, “Everything slowed down,” he said. “I had been shot.”

Dulashanti was on the receiving end of a barrage of rounds from an AK-47, fired virtually from point blank range. He was hit twice in the right knee, once in the left knee and once under the arm, with that round penetrating his rib cage.

Following initial treatment, he was transported to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for advanced care. He was in a medically-induced coma for awhile.

At Walter Reed, he lost his lower right leg. He pulled up his pants leg at the Grand Ronde event for all to see his prosthetic replacement.

In an August 2011 story posted by the Army on its home page, Dulashanti detailed the extent of his other injuries. He had to have his left knee partially replaced. He also had to have half of his stomach removed, along with some of his abdominal wall and a portion of his intestinal tract.

While Dulashanti could have taken a medical discharge, he chose instead to earn instructor certification with the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Now married with a daughter, he entered civilian life three years ago. He is hoping to participate in the 2016 Summer Paralympics, scheduled for Sept. 7-18 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dulashanti said he had visited the West Valley Veterans Memorial several times prior to Monday’s event. Tribal member and Marine Corps veteran Steve Bobb, who designed the memorial, invited him the first time.

“It’s amazing just knowing how much the community put into this, and how much pride it has,” he said.

In appearances, Dulashanti wants to instill in the younger generation how Memorial Day is a time to remember the sacrifices so many have made to ensure freedom for others.

Bobb said he became aware of Dulashanti in the course of planning a veterans car show, scheduled this year for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 18, in the west parking lot at Spirit Mountain Casino.

The free show is sponsored by the Grand Ronde Veterans Special Board. About $6,000 in proceeds, derived from registration fees, is expected to be distributed to various local, state and national veterans groups.

“He hit some points that people don’t often to hear,” Bobb said of Dulashanti. “He’s able to keep people’s attention.”

Ed VanDyke, of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, shared the podium with Dulashanti, along with members of the Grand Ronde Tribal Council.

“This is about my 10th time doing this, and I never feel adequate,” said Tribal Councilor Chris Mercier. “When I graduated from high school, I took a path not as challenging as those who defended their country.”

He said Bobb and other veterans have taught him an immense amount about the meaning of Memorial Day.

Councilor Denise Harvey said she still remembers the day her brother, Tom, was drafted, and the emotion that filled the room at home.

Eleven West Valley Veterans were honored during the ceremony. Their names have been added to the memorial, bringing the total on its black granite pillars to 2,325.

The honorees were: Air Force, Barry Ford and Glen A. Larson; Army, Larry R. Baker, Marshall F. Dunkin, Donald C. Hayes, Leslie L. Larson and Irvan G. Williamson; Navy, William M. Drake, Larry M. Godsey, Clyde D. Van Atta and Albert D. Miller. There were no tribal members among them this year.

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