Veteran doesn’t let anything stop him

Josh Damelio, human resource analyst for SageSure, is a fighter. From emancipation at age 14 to back surgery that left doctors telling him he’d never be able to walk normally, to a four-year sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, not much gets in the way of this veteran accomplishing his mission.  

“Being in the military, it always just felt like something I had to do with my life,” Damelio said. “I just always wanted to be a Marine.”

Damelio doesn’t come from a long line of servicemen and women. He is the only person in his family to join the military.

For Damelio, it was like a calling, an innate knowing. “I would get the chills every time I would see military men and women,” he said, so he enlisted at the age of 20 after just a few years of college. He served with the Marine Corps from 2008 to 2012, making corporal within the first year and earning three meritorious promotions.

During his four-year career, he spent only four months state-side. Instead, he was executing his mission, taking him to 27 different countries. Covert operations in Afghanistan, Civil War in Libya and pirates in the Strait of Hormuz – his time in the Marines was not uneventful.

Damelio, who often studied when others were out enjoying downtime, says the physicality and intellectual responsibilities of his assignments were not difficult.

“The hardest part is I didn’t make a lot of friends when I was in,” he said. “Who I was when I was a Marine is very different than who I am.”

Those who knew Damelio as a leader didn’t like him much, Damelio recounts. “But that’s my job, to keep you alive, not to make you like me. That’s the hardest part – not letting that bleed over into your personal life.”

While he may not have had many buddies as a corporal, early in his career Damelio experienced camaraderie in a way he never had before.  

“I grew up very much alone as far as support goes. I didn’t have a lot of people helping me,” he said.

During the last part of Bootcamp, called the Crucible, Damelio sprained his ankle. The senior drill instructor gave him two options: drop back and spend three months in a medical platoon and reattempt or, he said, “I can act like I didn’t see this, and you can keep going.”

For Damelio, the path forward was clear. He remembers saying, “I’m not leaving my guys. I’m staying.”

He taped his ankle with the only thing he had, electrical tape, and continued.

“We were trying to scale walls and climb over stuff, and I could barely walk,” he recounts. “I only did it because of the support of the people I was with. It was the first time in my life I had truly felt a sense of brotherhood. I had never experienced that before.”

Crossing the finish line, the senior drill sergeant remarked, “I have no idea how you made it,” and instructed him to get to the medical team. That’s when he discovered he had a class three sprain and shouldn’t have walked at all.

“It hurt like hell, but I wasn’t about to quit,” Damelio said.

Without Damelio, the four-person squad would have become three. While some of the physical demands were nearly impossible for Damelio, the team relied on each other for all other aspects of the test.

“It wasn’t just about me at that point,” he remembers. “We all needed each other.”

After Bootcamp, Damelio began his career in communications, setting up the network for operations. Counterintelligence and internal auditing are where he finished his service.

The back injury that had doctors saying he’d never walk normally is the same one that ended his military career. He left and earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida State with the hopes of helping children and veterans process difficult experiences that he knew all too well. Five of the men he served with committed suicide.

Registration for the next step on his path to helping people and furthering his education was once a year, and he just missed it. Looking for a way to fill his time, a position in the Department of Corrections opened in data entry. Damelio took the job, and like all things, learned everything he could, revolutionizing the way the department was operating.

“I got really involved and decided to stick with it,” Damelio said.

One year turned into three years. It was there he met Jocelyn, his wife. Together they have two sons, Harper, 10, and Barrett, better known as Bear, 3. Damelio and his family live in Crawfordville, Florida, just outside Tallahassee, where he serves as People Systems Analyst for SageSure.

“I’m in the most unlikely role,” he said. “I have a psychology degree and now I’m a data analyst.”

Looking back, Damelio can see how his analytical mind served him as a Marine. He was always looking for vulnerabilities.

“I’ve always been an analyst. It’s nice to apply it to something,” he said, adding some nights he works late on a project because he’s eager to find the solution.

On Veteran’s Day, Damelio says he doesn’t need to be thanked for his service but urges those who can, to do more than call a distant cousin who served to say thank you. “There are lots of veterans who are really struggling, and they don’t have anyone. That’s who needs to be recognized.”

If you’d like to make a difference in the life of a Veteran, Damelio suggests the Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit organization serving veterans and service members with physical or mental injury or illness.