MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
A heartwarming early Christmas present is scheduled to be picked up by a special family here with national media present to witness the occasion.
The family of Cpl. Dustin Lee, the Marine dog handler assigned to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany who was mortally wounded during combat operations in Iraq on March 21, will arrive here from Quitman, Miss., Friday to adopt their son’s canine partner, Lex.
“We are very proud to have had Lex as part of our team here, protecting the base,” said Col. C. N. Haliday, commanding officer, MCLB Albany. “And we are hopeful that the Lee family’s adoption of Lex will, in some way, ease the pain of their loss.”
Producers from national and local media have all expressed a desire to be present when the Lee family meets Lex again, this time to take him home.
The last time the Lee family saw the dog was at their son’s memorial on base in April.
Lex, after being wounded in the same explosion that killed Lee, was sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C., for an intense medical evaluation and rehabilitation process for 12 weeks. He was declared fit for duty, and returned to MCLB Albany as an explosives detection and patrol dog, fulfilling his mission of providing security and potentially saving lives aboard this base.
Watching Lex work or play, you wouldn’t know shrapnel from the explosion in Iraq wounded him in the back and shoulder. “He leaps hurdles and jumps obstacles like a pro,” commented Sgt. Larry Mayberry, dog handler with the Marine Corps Police Department. “Then he’ll play around all day if you let him.”
“We’re proud of everything the Marine Corps has done for us,” said Jerome Lee, father of Cpl. Lee. “They’ve bent over backwards to help us.”
However, the decision to release Lex was not made here. The authority to release an active duty working dog for adoption had to be first granted by the U.S. Air Force after Headquarters Marine Corps made an official request.
The U.S. Air Force is the approval authority for all military working dog matters, regardless of service. Official policy states that dogs who are adopted must first be retired after being found medically or operationally unfit.
Under most circumstances, the handler is the one permitted to adopt the dog. This particular situation marks the first time any active military working dog has been approved for adoption by a family, but it does not change official policy.
During the adoption screening process, MCLB Albany Police Department members were required to check Lex for any possible aggressive tendencies, ensuring he is safe to be adopted. Aggressive behavior wasn’t found to be a problem in Lex’s case.
“The bond that develops between dog and handler is very special,” said Capt. Mike Reynolds, kennelmaster, Marine Corps Police Department. “When you consider the amount of time spent together, especially in combat deployments, you spend more time with the canine than family or even your spouse.”
Lex will leave behind a Marine team who have continued to provide him with loving care and vigorous training.
But they know that Lex is headed to a good home and a caring family that hopefully, with Lex’s arrival, will feel closer to their fallen son.