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Nipomo High grad receives Silver Star for saving injured soldiers ambushed in Afghanistan

How SLO County’s Operation Surf helps veterans with PTSD and combat injuries

Local surfer Van Curaza and his non-profit Operation Surf, a surf therapy retreat to help veterans deal with PTSD, are featured in an upcoming documentary titled "Resurface" that will be screened at the SLO Film Fest.
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Local surfer Van Curaza and his non-profit Operation Surf, a surf therapy retreat to help veterans deal with PTSD, are featured in an upcoming documentary titled "Resurface" that will be screened at the SLO Film Fest.

Last year, a Nipomo High School graduate serving in Afghanistan helped save three injured soldiers after his team was ambushed by an enemy machine gunner.

On Thursday, Air Force Technical Sgt. Michael Perolio, 30, was awarded a Silver Star — the third-highest military medal — for those acts of gallantry in combat.

In January 2018, Perolio was in a team of five men leaving a meeting with a militia leader when machine gun fire opened up on them from the compound 50 meters away, according to a report by Stars and Stripes. His captain and two others were wounded in the attack.

Taking control of the situation, Perolio navigated through open fire to find a route out, returned fire and ordered airstrikes to help his team escape, according to Stars and Stripes.

Perolio’s quick response allowed members of his team to receive necessary medical care within 15 minutes of being shot.

“He got me out of quite possibly the worst situation I’ve been in in my entire life,” said Army Capt. William Clark told Stars and Stripes.

Perolio, who grew up in Nipomo and graduated Nipomo High School in 2007, received the award in a ceremony in Texas, with Clark in attendance.

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Air Force Techbnical Sgt. Michael Perolio is seen on deployment to Afghanistan in 2018. He received the Silver Star on Thursday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. U.S. Air Force

He is currently stationed with the Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland with his wife of seven years, Brooke Perolio. They are expecting their first child in December and hope to move back to SLO County some day.

Brooke Perolio said her husband is the “most humble man you’ll ever meet.” She said many of their relatives did not know the entirety of his actions until the medal ceremony.

Michael Perolio said receiving the medal was an “awesome moment.”

“I’m super blessed to say I’m a part of this small combat’s history,” Perolio said. “But it’s important to remember there’s a lot of guys still out there doing some amazing things in dangerous situations, and they may or may not receive the recognition they deserve.”

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