Santa Clara County Judge Socrates "Pete" Manoukian reflects on his son, Matt, who died in Afghanistan. George Kirimaya reports.
The state's Judicial Council has awarded a slain South Bay Marine with a distinguished service award - it's the first time this council has awarded a person who isn't a judge.
Capt. Matthew Manoukian was one of six people to be awarded this year and was honored especially - and posthumously - with the Stanley Mosk Defender of Justice Award. He was part of the 1st Marines Special Operations Battalion.
The 29-year-old was also the son of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Socrates "Pete" Manoukian and the state Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, Associate Justice Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian.
"He was such a great kid," his father told NBC Bay Area, adding that he was not to submit his son's name to win the award. "Matt never like that kind of attention."
On Aug. 10, Manoukian and two other Marines were fatally shot after a pre-dawn meal and security meeting at a police checkpoint. The meal was eaten before the sun came up, because he was respecting the rules of the Ramadan fast.
The award, in part, was handed to Manoukian for his work in 2008 when he was on his second tour of duty in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq. The Judicial Council credited Manoukian with playing a "significant role" in that province's transformation toward democracy "helping to open schools, police departments, and courthouses."
The award also credited Manoukian with his work in 2010, when he was deployed to the Helmand province in Afghanistan, where he realized the "societal need for a fair judicial system," which influenced his decision to apply to law school. He was supposed to have started Golden Gate University law school in August 2013.
Manoukian was also credited with his more recent work, helping train municipal governments in Afghanistan fight against Taliban infiltration and disruption. "His team made great advancements in stabilizing the area and institutionalizing the beginnings of law and order," the council wrote.
Manoukian is a 2001 graduate of St. Francis High School in Mountain View and a 2005 graduate of the University of Arizona. His parents live in Los Altos and are very active in the community. He has two brothers, Michael and Martin.
The Judicial Council of California awards program is now in its 19th year, and a special ceremony is scheduled for December in San Francisco. The program aims to "honor service, foster access to justice and defense of the rule of law."
Matt Manoukian was proud to be a Marine and proud to serve the country, but he was also humble.
Judge Manoukian says his son wouldn't have had it any other way.
"The award is made to Matthew but it's in recognition of everything all the military has done in Afghanistan," a proud father stated.