Melissa Valles was from Eagle Pass Texas, located just south of San Antonio, on the Mexican border. She came from a family of five: her mother Maribel Valles, step-father Carlos Gomez, sister Maribel, and brothers Fernando and Jesus. Melissa was known as a good student who graduated from Eagle Pass High School with honors and played on the school basketball team. Even though Melissa had two older brothers, her sister Maribel recalled her taking on the role of head of household.
She was petite, but she was a really tough lady. She really put people in their place. She did that since she was a girl. She would put little boys who were bullies in their place.Maribel Valles, sister of Melissa Valles (Associated Press)
In 2003, Melissa was 26 years old and was with the headquarters detachment of the 64th Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team stationed in Balad, Iraq. She had been stationed there for roughly three months.
On Wednesday, July 9, 2003, Melissa Valles died from a non-combat gunshot wound to the abdomen. She became the second U.S. servicewoman to die in Iraq.
Military officials have said the death was accidental but did not release any information or details of the wound to the family. The Valles family was left mainly with unanswered questions in Melissa’s death and have stated that although they have gotten updates from the Army, they have never received a conclusion. To this day, they still seek answers as to how Melissa died and the circumstances around it.
She sacrificed her life and served her country real proudly. For them to pay us back this way, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to her. It’s not fair for the country.Fernando Valles Jr., brother of Melissa Valles (Associated Press)