Mark Zambon

A Gold-Star in lieu of Second Award Purple Heart recipient, Staff Sergeant Zambon was born in Marquette, Michigan on November 3d, 1984. He graduated from Marquette Senior High School in May of 2003 and shipped off to Marine Corps Recruit Training in San Diego the next month.

After completion of boot camp, PFC Zambon attended Marine Combat Training at the Camp Pendleton School of Infantry and then the basic supply stock school in Camp Johnson, NC. PFC Zambon received orders to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II in February 2004. LCpl Zambon extended his deployment in Fallujah, Iraq to thirteen months and when he returned to the United States, sought orders to fulfill his dream and become an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician.


Sgt Zambon reported to Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Eglin AFB, FL in July 2005 and graduated the following spring with orders to 1st EOD Company at Camp Pendleton, CA. There SSgt Zambon completed deployments in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom from March-October 2007, Operation Enduring Freedom from April-October 2008, and March-May 2010. In May of 2010 while working an improvised detonator in Musa Qala, Afghanistan, a sensitive improvised explosive detonated in his left hand. The small but powerful blast dealt traumatic amputations to three distal finger joints of his non-dominant hand. SSgt Zambon made a return to full duty in a month and a half in a lightning fast recovery and jumped on the training cycle to relieve the Marines he had deployed with in earlier in the year. SSgt Zambon deployed again in October 2010, this time in direct support of I Company, 3rd Bn 5th Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan. The team he trained and led hit the ground running and executed expert EOD support for the company, safing and disposing of over fifty IED’s and numerous other support missions; saving Marines lives and limbs and allowing I Co 3/5 freedom of movement throughout their battle space. In January of 2011 while moving dismounted in response to an explosive device through a heavily IED laden urban area in Sangin, SSgt Zambon was struck with an IED with a ten pound explosive main charge.   

The blast immediately took both of his legs above the knees. Thanks to the skillful medical treatment his team and a Navy Corpsman rendered on scene, his life was saved and he was MEDEVAC’d by British helicopter for further urgent medical care. After a short stay in Bethesda, MD at the National Naval Medical Center, SSgt Zambon elected to be transferred to San Diego’s Naval Medical Center and once again conduct rehabilitation there. In June of 2011 SSgt Zambon met Tim Medvetz of The Heroes Project in LA, a non-profit that trains and takes injured service members on mountain climbs of the seven continents respective tallest mountains. SSgt Zambon set his sights on Africa’s Mt Kilimanjaro and in June of 2012, eighteen months after losing both of his legs in a bomb blast he stood on top of the 19,341’ mountain and there, in remembrance, buried the dog tags of two close friends that gave their lives in the defense of our great nation. 

Upon his return from Africa, SSgt Zambon and another injured US Marine joined with the Race2Recovery team, founded by wounded British soldiers and Marines set on racing the 2013 Dakar Rally Raid in South America. As a team, months of navigational and mechanical training were conducted with their Bowler Wildcat Race Cars in England, Morocco and here at home in San Diego. On December 31st 2012 the team left for South America and amidst the cheers of the fans of Lima, Peru subsequently began the grueling 9,000km 15 day off-road race throughout South America. After many mechanical difficulties and crashes, on January 20th  the team’s race car “Joy” crossed the finish line in Santiago, Chile and became the first amputee team to successfully race the challenging Dakar Rally Raid.

After the recovery was completed SSgt Zambon reported for duty as an instructor at the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Eglin AFB, FL. SSgt Zambon taught EOD students the craft of the core skills necessary to stay safe in such a dangerous occupation. All the while in Florida, SSgt Zambon was training as a swimmer for several distance swimming events. After competing in several events in the fall of 2013 and excelling at them he was accepted by the Wavehouse Swim Team in Mission Beach, San Diego to train to compete in the 2016 Paralympics. In March 2014, SSgt Zambon wrapped up his tour in Florida, and moved back with his family to San Diego to pursue athletic training full time to again represent this great nation; this time on the Paralympic stage.

During the mid-summer of 2014 SSgt Zambon suffered a tendon injury in his left shoulder and is back on the familiar beaten path of rehabilitation. SSgt Zambon has further committed to racing the 2016 Dakar Rally Raid with the British Race2Recovery team.