I put it in front of the solenoid because it was convenient with the parts I had. I don't think it it makes a difference.
I read the Swagelok writeup on these valves, they have a stop to keep them from being closed too far and getting damaged so I'm skeptical that I damaged it that way. It was bought off ebay though, so who knows what the previous owner did to it.
What was your pressure behind your valve? If my regulator went lower than 10psi I'd be able to drop the flow rate that way.