Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Wounded Marine Makes It Home For Christmas
But first he has to visit the grave of his best friend

From the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser; (Emphasis mine)

A war hero goes home
By Jenn Rowell

A motorcycle convoy stopped at a Montgomery gas station Saturday to pick up more riders to escort a war hero home from Iraq. Members of the Alabama Patriot Guard joined others who rode to honor Lex, a military working dog on his way to Mississippi to live with the family of his fallen handler.

Marine Cpl. Dustin Lee was killed March 21 during a mortar attack in Fallujah, Iraq. Like any good Marine, Lex did what he was trained to do:
Wounded by shrapnel, he stayed by Lee's side and protected him until help arrived.

The Riders were anxious to shake hands with the father of the fallen 20-year-old Marine. They also wanted to pet Lex, who loved the star treatment. The bomb-sniffing dog is accustomed to being the center of attention, said Lee's father. "Lex was sort of a part of home for the Marines over there," Jerome Lee said. "They loved to pet him, and Dusty loved talking to the other guys and getting to know them."

Many of the Alabama Patriot Guards on hand Saturday were part of an earlier convoy that escorted Dustin Lee to his final resting place in Quitman, Miss. The family asked the Riders to be with Lex as he makes the transition from working dog to family pet.

"Because the Patriot Guard Riders had done it for Lee, the family wanted us to do the same thing for the dog," said Tom Ellis, a Vietnam veteran and co-captain of the Alabama group. "We want to show the military and their families that the people here do care about them." It was another opportunity to honor the family -- and Lex -- for their sacrifice.

"He's a veteran also," Ellis said. Defense Department officials said Lex is the first dog to receive early retirement -- the 8-year-old animal's career ended two years early -- to be adopted by a handlers' family. The orders came through just in time for Christmas. Lex has been stationed at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga., since recovering from his wounds. He was retired during a Friday ceremony.

Having their son's partner join them at home will be a comfort, Jerome Lee said. "Everywhere you saw Lex, you saw Dusty. They were inseparable."

Dustin Lee spent the final months of his life with Lex at his side. He was killed on a daily mission when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby. The dog also was wounded but crawled over to his handler, nudged his face, then lay at his side as a corpsman treated his wounds, Marines in Lee's unit told his family.

Jerome Lee said the family would take Lex to visit their son's gravesite for a short ceremony before taking him home. They plan to build a special doghouse for Lex, who served two tours in Iraq. They've laid in plenty of pet supplies.

But Lex will be more than a pet. For the Lee family, the loyal shepherd will be a living reminder of the son and brother they have lost. "Lex was Dustin's partner. He's always going to be a part of Dusty," Jerome Lee said before his family drove away from Montgomery. "And for what time Lex has left, we're going to make sure he has a good life."
I don't know about you, but this story tears me up.


Blogger mig said...

Oh this is so sad. There are so many amazing young men being lost and the crappers on the corner sell that their stupidity are breeding.

These patriots are the most amazing people on the planet. It's not like this war is a secret and they don't know what they are in for. They know exactly what's going on and they still sign up and go back for second and third tours. The most amazing men on the planet.

8:46 AM  

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