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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Base kennel dedicated to fallen Marine

By Jason M. Webb | | March 25, 2010

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany gave a former Marine stationed here its highest honor by renaming the base K-9 kennel in his name in a somber ceremony March 19.

Officially renamed the Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee Kennel, permission for naming the facility was approved by the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Lee, 20, of Quitman, Miss., was killed in Iraq March 21, 2007, in a 73 mm rocket attack.  His K-9 military working dog, Lex, was by his side and sustained shrapnel wounds during the incident that took Lee’s life. 

At the time of the attack, Lee was detached from the Marine Corps Police Department here, and attached to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Lee’s family attended the event with Lex, whom the family adopted Dec. 21, 2007, after appealing to the military and eventually making Lex the first fully-fit military working dog granted early retirement and adoption by the Department of Defense to his fallen handler’s family.

The ceremony was attended by guest speaker Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding officer of U.S. Marine Forces Command; Lt. Gen. Willie J. Williams, former LOGCOM commanding general;  Brig. Gen. James A. Kessler, commanding general, LOGCOM; Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, MCLB Albany; Col. Christian Haliday, former base commanding officer who initiated the dedication request; collectively honored the Lee family for the sacrifice of their son, brother and Marine.

“The last three years have been hard, to say the least, but we have had a lot of support,” said Dustin Lee’s father, Jerome Lee. “It’s fitting that the Marine Corps and military family have come together to honor him.”

As part of the dedication ceremony to Lee, a large 100-pound bronze tablet was unveiled by his family.

 In part, it read: “Cpl. Lee and Lex supported the Marines of Company A, 3rd Recon Bn., for nearly five months of continuous combat operations by identifying improvised explosive devices and courageously exposing themselves to hidden threats throughout the Al Anbar, Iraq, province in order to protect their fellow Marines.

Cpl. Lee was killed in action on March 21, 2007, when Company A’s forward operating base was attacked by insurgents with indirect fire. Cpl. Lee was mortally wounded and Lex was injured when a 73 mm rocket exploded inside his forward operating base.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for Valor and the Combat Action Ribbon.”

After the plaque was revealed, Dustin Lee’s mother, Rachel Lee, gave a heartfelt speech giving thanks to the base for welcoming her family over the last three years and dedicating the facility to her son who cherished working here and honing his K-9 handling skills before being deployed to Iraq.

“This means so much to us. This base is an extension of our family,” she said. “Dustin was not perfect; he was the typical child that would get in trouble. But he did have a perfection – to be the best dog handler he could be.  I’m honored to be his mom. I miss him, but I know he’s serving in a better place.”

During his speech to the large crowd gathered to dedicate to K-9 Kennel, and to the Lee family especially, Natonski said, “Today we come full circle, honoring the memory and bravery of Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee and his faithful partner Lex, with gratitude to his mom, dad, brother and sister.

“Mr. and Mrs. Lee you’ve raised a fine Marine and son.  Semper Fi Corporal Lee, Semper Fi Lex, and may God bless you all.”