QUITMAN, MS, USA U.S. Marines CPL, B CO, HQ BN, (3D RECON BN, RCT-6, II MEF FWD), MCLB ALBANY, GA TAQQADUM, IRAQ 03/21/2007
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 me.”
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 Reverend 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, Colonel 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.
Lex, a 7-year-old German Shepherd Dog, is a retired military dog who served in Iraq with young Marine Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee. Corporal Lee was a renowned dog handler due to his extraordinary ability to work an explosives detection dog and narcotics detection dog simultaneously.
Under the skilled guidance of Corporal Lee, Lex dutifully searched for roadside bombs to keep the roads safe and open for American troops in Iraq. Tragically, Corporal Lee was killed in a mortar attack in Falluja in early 2007. As he lay bleeding, Lex, although injured himself, was at his partner’s side to comfort him. Their bond was so strong, the loyalty so deep, that medics had to drag Lex away so they could attend to Corporal Lee. He succumbed a short time later and Lex was reassigned to the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia.
Corporal Lee’s parents, Jerome and Rachel, who knew about the special relationship that existed between their son and Lex, petitioned to adopt the dog. North Carolina Congressman, Walter Jones, heard about the Lee’s request, and led a successful campaign to retire Lex, so that he could finally have a home with the Lees.
Since his retirement, Lex has been awarded a Commemorative Purple Heart, but he has not rested on his laurels. The Lee’s bring Lex to VA hospitals and retirement homes to offer solace to the veterans who have so honorably served their country.