Official Marine Corps Press Release for the Retirement and Adoption of MWD Lex click to comment

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Than Just Equipment

It has become very apparent to me in this "Battle for Lex" that Military Working Dogs are basically considered equipment. They are issued an ID number and that ID is tattooed in their ear. Lex Lee , which is what other Marines called Lex, is more to this family than equipment. On March 21, 2007, Lex did something that cannot be taught to a K9. While standing with his master at the time a RPG was fired onto their base, he was severely injured and his master was killed. Months after the attack, a Sgt Major visited our family and gave us a lot of information about that day. Before leaving, he felt it very important to tell us that when the RPG was fired and it hit that concrete wall by which Dustin and Lex were standing, that the shrapnel just splattered onto Dustin and Lex. Even though Lex was too hit by multiple hot pieces of shrapnel that he moved to Dustin's side trying to lick him and make him better. He laid with Dustin, watching vigil as his master died. He was the last one to see Dustin alive. He was the last one to hear his last words. He's more than just equipment. THAT BOND, THAT LOVE CAN'T BE TAUGHT. The comfort that Lex brought to our family at Dustin's service was incomparable to any words of comfort spoken by Top Brass. To be able to touch and look into the eyes of Lex is like getting to be in Dustin's presence one more time.

I was blessed with a wonderful little boy that is now three years old that asks me all the time why his Dusty can't come home from Jesus' house. He also calls the US flag a "Dusty flag" because the pictures of the flag draped over Dustys casket are all too familiar to him. Every dog that looks like Lex is a "Dusty dog".
Remember that my little man is three.......He asked me this morning if Dusty would be home for Christmas. I hate that my son will not be able to remember the times with Dustin. He will be raised to know that Dustin is a hero and that he became a hero by serving his country so that maybe my son won't have to.

I remember being in awe as Col. Christian Haliday spoke at Dustins service and he stood with tears in his eyes and said in a wavering voice that Dustin will never be forgotten. That he and Lex were "an exceptional team that came together and saved the lives of numerous other soldiers". I also remember him stating that the Corp is like a band of brothers.

We received all of Dustin's personal effects including all of Lex's belongings as well; his leash, harness and even the red "kong" that he loves so much. There is a photo of him in Iraq, sitting with Dustin, holding that red kong in his mouth. I believe that Lex would be so happy to walk into Dustin's home and smell his scent on all of his personal things, to get all of his toys back and to have a sense of becoming a gifted dog instead of a working dog. After all, what more could we have asked of Lex than to protect our Dustin to the bitter end. The least that we could do for Lex is get him retired so he can come home to us and heal.

I believe with all of my heart that if Dustin were given the chance to come back to this earth that he would choose to keep his wings but if able, he would send Lex to live with his family to help us deal with our loss.

The final decision, the fate of Lex completely rests in the hands of Col. Haliday. No matter what the vet says about their evaluation of Lex, no matter what congress says, The life of Lex is in his hands. Please pray that he will put aside the value of the Corp's "equipment" and comprehend that Lex is, as Dustins brother said, "everything to us". Pray that he will go home and sit among his own children and think as if this was his own family.

With all my honor,
Dana Rich

Will I See You Tomorrow- by Phyllis Ward

A letter from Phyllis Ward while servingin Iraq to Rachel and Jerome Lee after learning of Cpl Lee's death.

I am reposting this letter because it solidifies Dustin's love and care for Lex and that he did have plans on adopting him after his tour.

I was working the 1000-2230 shift at the internet café in Iraq. We had a crowd of Marines and Soldiers sitting in the waiting area for their turn to use the phones and computers.

Each night I would make popcorn and put on a movie. The troops followed the smell of the popcorn and meekly approached me saying, “ma’am, that popcorn sure does smell good. May I have some?”

As I cleaned up and went in the waiting area I looked over the room of about 30 troops while they laughed, ate popcorn, and enjoyed the movie.

I felt like I had a room full of sons and daughters and my family was in from missions. They were safe and sound under my watchful eye.

I thought about their mothers and fathers; what were they doing right now? I knew they must worry each day about their children. Even though they are technically adults, they are someone’s children.

I found myself wishing I had a camera so that I could film each one of them and send it to their parents or write each one a letter to let them know that their children were safe and sound right now.

At that moment they were peaceful, they were happy and they were not in any danger. Mothers and fathers, I know where your children are right now. I’m watching over them.

I wanted to hug each one of them. I wanted to pray with each one of them to let them know that they don’t have to go through this deployment alone, to tell them that God loved them and to pray God’s protection upon them.

I thought of the real possibility that I may not see them again and began to wonder, “Will I see you tomorrow?”

I talked with one young Cpl who had his dog Lex with him. I wanted to take a picture of the two of them together but Cpl Dustin Lee wasn’t sure how Lex would react since they had just experienced an explosion that day.

I spoke with Dustin a little while longer. He was very friendly and truly an “All American” kid.

Cpl Lee told me that he and his dog were going home soon and how excited he was to go home. His dog Lex was a seven year veteran and was retiring upon his return to the states.

Cpl Lee was obviously very proud of his dog. It was also obvious that Lex had great admiration for Cpl Lee. Lex was going home with Cpl Lee to become a pet.

It was weeks later that I heard someone talking about Lex and how he had lost his tail and taken shrapnel during an explosion. I asked about the dog and they said he was on his way back to the states; he was okay.

They seemed to leave out the most obvious information that one would want to know. If the dog was injured, what happened to the dog handler? I swallowed hard and asked the question.

She said, “I thought you knew. Cpl Lee was killed.”

I went through a range of emotions. I was angry, hurt, shocked but most of I didn’t want to believe it. One of my boys was dead. I will never see him again. He was only 20 years old…this makes no sense at all!

I don’t think I will ever forget that night. The memory will live on in my heart forever. I am so proud of our young men and women and I will continue to pray over them, a prayer my friend prays over me each day.

original letter posted at

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