Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee, 20, of Quitman, Miss.

Cpl. Lee was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga.; died March 21, 2007 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Mississippi Marine killed in Iraq
The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. — A 20-year-old Marine from Mississippi’s Clarke County was killed March 21 in Iraq.

Cpl. Dustin Lee died in Fallujah during a mortar attack, Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Trooper Ronnie Carter told The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.

Lee, the son of MHP Trooper Jerome Lee, was serving with the 3/14 G Battery, 3rd Platoon. He had been in the Marines since graduating from Quitman High School in 2004, Carter said.

Lee, of the Stonewall community, was scheduled to return home next month, according to

The Department of Defense had not yet issued a statement about Lee’s death March 22.

Fallen Marine laid to rest
The Associated Press

QUITMAN, Miss. — Dustin Lee took his final drive up Highway 513 on March 31.

Family, friends and veteran soldiers honored and remembered Lee, who on March 21 was killed during a mortar attack while serving with the Marine Corps in Fallujah, Iraq.

Ronnie Carter, a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper that worked with Lee’s father, Jerome Lee, said the past 11 days were difficult.

“I’m here to help Dusty take his last ride up Highway 513,” Carter told the standing room only sanctuary. “He and I had so much in common. I know he will always be a part of mine.”

In a resolution passed by the Mississippi State Senate and House of Representatives, Lee was recognized as an all-American boy who gave his life so that others may know freedom.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to know Dustin well,” said First Baptist Church Rev. Chris Cooksey during church services in Quitman. “But from talking with his fellow Marines, his family and friends, I can tell you he was a man of great strength, courage and unwavering faith. Life radiated from him.”

Jerome and Rachel Lee were presented a state flag by a highway patrol honor guard. Lee’s commander, Col. Chris Halliday, said Lee was a special person who fit into the Marine Corps and its commitment to excellence and dedication to the country.

“He will forever be a member of our eternal brotherhood,” Halliday said.

Under a cloudy sky, the funeral motorcade arrived at Stonewall Cemetery where about 100 people waited patiently, holding flags.

Veterans, some in their 70s and 80s, stood proud. More than 100 members of the Patriot Guard, a motorcycle organization manned by veterans of past conflicts, stood with American flags waving in a gusty wind. Teenage members of the local high school ROTC program saluted alongside seasoned officers, deputies and troopers from law enforcement agencies from across the state.

Family wants fallen Marine's military dog

Corps resists adoption efforts until German shepherd is retired
By Andrew Tilghman - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Dec 4, 2007 10:35:51 EST

When Cpl. Dustin Jerome Lee's personal effects were shipped to his childhood home in Mississippi after his death in Iraq last spring,his family found some typical items - a laptop computer, a pair of glasses and a few photos from home.

But they also found some things not every Marine would have - several dog toys, a harness and a short, knotted piece of rope, gnawed and frayed at the ends.

Lee was a 20-year-old dog handler who spent the final months of his life with a German shepherd named Lex at his side. They were on a mission together on March 21 when a rocket-propelled grenade killed Lee. As the young Marine lay dying on a street in Fallujah, the dog nudged his handler's face, then lay loyally at his side while a corpsman treated his fatal wounds, several Marines told his family.

More than eight months later, as members of the Lee family prepare for their first Christmas since Dustin's death, they have a final request of the Marine Corps: permission to adopt their son's canine partner.

"I know Dustin would want Lex to be with his family," said Lee's uncle, Brian Rich. "They gave their son - he made the ultimate sacrifice. If it brings his family some comfort to see the dog there, then why not?"

But Marine officials say Lex is still on active duty. The 7-year-old dog was wounded in the same explosion that killed Lee, but has fully recovered. The dog is working alongside military police, assisting with force protection at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., where Lee was stationed.

The Lee family hasn't seen the dog since Marines brought him to the funeral in April.

Marine Corps command is "extremely sympathetic to the Lee family's desire to adopt the military working dog after the tragic incident that claimed the life of his handler," said Colie Young, a base spokesman. "The command will continue to support the Lee family in the adoption process at the appropriate time, if and when Lex is
found unfit for duty and appropriately screened for adoption."

Marine Corps Headquarters is aware of the family's request, and is "working the situation at their level," according to 2nd Lt. Caleb Eames, a public affairs officer in Albany. Lee was the third of four military dog handlers killed since 2003.

The laws covering adoption of military dogs have evolved in recent years. During the Vietnam War, thousands of dogs were abandoned or euthanized when U.S. troops withdrew. Virtually none came home.

For decades, the military considered the dogs to be "equipment" and had no process for adopting them after they "retired." That changed in 2000, when President Clinton signed a law allowing adoptions once the dogs could no longer perform their duties.

In 2005, Congress heard the story of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana,who suffered nearly fatal injuries and asked to adopt her bomb-sniffing dog. President Bush signed a law permitting early adoptions for the individual troops who have worked with the dog.

The case of the Lee family may be the first instance of a deceased handler's family seeking to adopt a military dog. The Lee family has begun a petition drive and created a Web site to chronicle their efforts to adopt the dog.

Lex is one of about 170 dogs in the Corps, and the canines are in intense demand. Lex "is potentially saving lives by performing his mission," Eames said.

The relationship between a dog and its handler in a combat zone is unique, said John Burnam, author of "Dog Tags of Courage: The Turmoil of War and the Rewards of Companionship."

"When that bond finally clicks, you just sort of become one. Once the handler draws down into the level of the dog's world and learns what the dog knows, he can really communicate with the animal," Burnam said. "You can see, in the case of Dustin Lee, the dog didn't get startled by the explosion and run away. The dog was wounded and
bleeding, but he crawled over and pawed to get his handler's attention."

Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee was killed in action on 3/21/07.

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