Tuesday, August 29, 2006
By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
August 12, 2006
Flags at public agencies across Oregon were lowered to half-mast on Thursday in honor of a fallen sailor from Hood River.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski decreed Aug. 10 as a day of mourning for Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Alan Lee. The 28-year-old member of the elite Navy SEALs died Aug. 2 during a fierce fire fight in Ramadi, Iraq.
“Petty Officer Lee’s service and sacrifice for our country places us forever in his debt,” said Kulongoski. “The loss of this brave young leader is profound. Lee’s valiant service to risk his own life in defense of freedom in Iraq is a testament to his character. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family at this very difficult time.”
Lee’s funeral service will take place today at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at Point Loma in San Diego County, Calif. The SEALs will hold a service in his honor following the interment. Kulongoski, a former Marine who has vowed to attend the funeral of all active duty military personnel from Oregon, will be present at those ceremonies to pay his respects to the Lee family.
To date, SEAL Lee has been awarded the following commendations: Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Combat Action Ribbon. His mother, Debbie Lee, said more medals will be assigned to her son for his bravery.
A memorial service will be held in Hood River as soon as the family has decided upon a date and location. Those decisions are expected to be made early next week and advertised so that community members have an opportunity to attend. (Hood River News will carry details.)
A Stars and Stripes article published the day after Lee’s death provided information about the fatal battle. It was described as one of the largest campaigns led by U.S. forces to seek out and eliminate insurgent strongholds in the heart of downtown Ramadi.
Army tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles joined soldiers and SEALs in cordoning off sectors of the city and then searching individual buildings. They were concentrating on a location where insurgents had holed up and killed four Marines the previous week.
The battle began just before 8 a.m. when an insurgent sniper hit the rifle carried by SEAL Ryan Job, who was on a rooftop. The stock of the gun shattered and crushed his cheekbone. Another SEAL, name unknown, was wounded in the shoulder but struggled with other team members to move Job out of harm’s way. Several men were pinned down inside the building by heavy fire.
Lee reportedly sized up the situation and opened fire on bunkered insurgents to cover the evacuation of the wounded SEALs. Half an hour later, he was killed by machine gun fire through a window, the only American casualty of the day.
Job is now recovering from serious injuries at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. His mother, Debbie Job, is expected to attend the services for Lee in California on Aug. 12. Several friends from Hood River will join Debbie Lee, who relocated from Hood River to Arizona in December, Marc’s wife, Maya Elbaum, his brother, Kris, and sister, Cheryl Wells.
Marc Lee attended Summit Christian School (now Horizon Christian School) and played soccer for Hood River Valley High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on May 21, 2001, and graduated from boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill., that September. He subsequently entered Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Fla., where he became an Aviation Ordnanceman.
In October of 2001, Petty Officer Lee entered Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, Calif. It was the SEALs’ embodiment of the Navy Core Values of Honor, Courage and Committement that reportedly drew him to volunteer for arduous SEAL duties.
Lee’s courage and commitment were tested when he came down with pneumonia during his first attempt to complete the rigorous training. He returned to the Fleet for a time to regain his strength, and was stationed aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D.Eisenhower.
With renewed determination, he returned to BUD/S in March 2004 and graduated in November. He then completed the advanced SEAL courses, with parachute training at Basic Airborne School in Fort Benning, Ga. Lee also spent six months in Coronado for Qualifications Training and endured cold weather combat exercises in Kodiak, Alaska.
He was promoted to Petty Officer Second Class in May 2005 and was subsequently assigned to a West Coast-based SEAL team in July of that year.
In the ensuing months, Lee participated in specialized trainings to prepare for his SEAL team’s deployment earlier this year to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.