Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Alan Lee KIA in Fierce Firefight in Ramadi Iraq
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.
1st AD units at Ramadi hit insurgents hard in
largest battle of new campaign
By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, August 3, 2006
RAMADI, Iraq — Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles with the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division pounded insurgent strongholds in the heart of downtown Ramadi on Wednesday morning in what commanders here described as the largest battle since U.S. forces launched a new campaign to tame the city two months ago.
“It was the biggest fight we’ve had by far,” said Capt. Michael Bajema, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment. “We definitely hurt the enemy today.”
Sniper and machine-gun fire, as well as the low boom of 120 mm tank rounds, echoed throughout the city just after dawn as soldiers, Navy SEALs and veteran Iraqi soldiers kicked off a cordon-and-search operation in one of the most hotly contested sectors of Ramadi.
The battle began just before 8 a.m., when an insurgent sniper shot a Navy SEAL in the face, wounding him and pinning down the rest of his team. For roughly the next hour, tanks and Bradleys waged a hectic assault on buildings spread over a five-block area, killing at least a dozen insurgents.
Before the battle ended, a second SEAL was wounded in the shoulder and another killed by machine-gun fire as he and soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division attacked bunkered insurgents.
In all, the tanks and Bradleys fired 11 main gun rounds, 6 TOW missiles, 100 25 mm cannon rounds and 2,000 co-axial machine gun rounds into bunkered insurgent positions and sniper perches.
Company B soldiers discovered the bodies of 12 enemies during the battle, but they reported that as many as 15 more had been dragged off by insurgents shortly after they were hit and could not be confirmed dead. “Usually they recover their dead within a couple minutes,” said Bajema, 32, of Seattle.
Ramadi, Iraq’s largest Sunni Arab city, has been a hotbed of insurgent activity for much of the war. Until recently, U.S. forces have focused on defending points along the city’s main thoroughfare as well as its embattled government office building, leaving large swaths of town open to insurgent activity.
In June, however, the 1st Brigade was transferred from northern Iraq to Ramadi, where the unit is now employing a hybrid variation of the U.S. military’s “clear, hold and build” strategy.
Instead of emptying the city of all civilians and taking on insurgents in an extremely violent and epic battle — as was done in Fallujah and Tal Afar — 1st AD troops are attempting to isolate and eliminate insurgents block by block.
The Friedberg, Germany-based unit uses a ring of combat outposts within the city to stage daily patrols and larger operations against insurgents.
The outposts, as well as the unit’s heavy armor, have allowed them to put unprecedented pressure on insurgents here and, according to some commanders, drive insurgents into the city’s violent center.
“You’ve heard of the chewy center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?” said Lt. Col. Peter Lee, the brigade’s executive officer. “Well, we’ve been putting constant pressure on the enemy, squeezing him out of his safe havens and what we’re down to now is the chewy center.”
Wednesday’s operation began just after dawn as troops and tanks began working their way toward an area where four Marines were killed a week ago. As dismounted troops searched residences a half-mile away, Navy SEALs, Iraqi troops and two Abrams tanks headed for an area near the insurgent mosque.
The first SEAL was struck by sniper fire from a three-story building. The bullet crushed his cheekbone but did not kill him. As troops responded with heavy machine-gun fire, 1st Platoon tank gunner Spc. Michael Ford fired a main gun round into the building.
“We fired one round and then we waited for the smoke to clear,” recalled Ford, 21, of Eufaula, Okla. “A few minutes later we put another one into the middle of the building.”
The driver, Pvt. Brian Stone, 20, of Topeka, Kan., said he was covered with a coating of fine dust that showered into the vehicle from ventilation hatches after the big gun fired. “It’s like being inside a revolver when it fires,” Stone said of the blast.
As Stone’s tank left the scene to escort the wounded SEAL back to COP Falcon, Bajema ordered another three rounds fired from his own tank, gutting the structure.
As tanks covered the SEAL team’s exit, a blue sedan closed in on their position along a major thoroughfare. The driver was preparing to fire an AK-47 when a tank opened up with a co-axial machine gun, setting the vehicle ablaze.
As troops scanned the streets for signs of a counterattack, a robot surveillance aircraft spotted eight men moving toward Bajema’s location carrying RPGs and assault rifles. Bajema said he discovered them in an alleyway, fired another main gun round and killed two of them.
By this time, the SEAL team and Bradleys were searching for the other men in the group. They found two of them in another building. The Bradleys unloaded 50 rounds at them with their 25 mm cannon, killing both.
The SEALs prepared to enter another building where insurgents had holed up. The insurgents opened fire, fatally wounding one SEAL who was hit with a blast of gunfire through a window. The rest of the team returned fire, killing the insurgents.
One more SEAL was wounded in the shoulder when insurgents began firing at them from another bunkered house. Bajema responded with four main gun rounds, destroying the building.
Bajema said he considered the operation a success, although he admitted to some mixed emotions.
“There’s a psychological effect of going into an area the enemy owns and causing so much damage,” he said. “I think that will pay dividends.”
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — In his final act as a Navy SEAL, Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marc A. Lee rained down machine gun fire to help protect several of his teammates before he was felled by enemy fire in Iraq last week.
On Tuesday, Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter honored that heroism with approval of the Silver Star, Cmdr. Greg Geisen, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif., said Wednesday afternoon.
The Aug. 2 death of Lee, 28, was the first suffered in Iraq by the Navy’s elite commando force.
Lee and other teammates were supporting an Iraqi Army unit during military operations with Army forces in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province in western Iraq that has seen regular attacks by insurgents.
According to the award citation, provided to Navy Times by Geisen, Lee was conducting clearance operations in south-central Ramadi with members of a Naval Special Warfare Combat Advisory element.
“During the operation, one element member was wounded by enemy fire. The element completed the casualty evacuation, regrouped and returned onto the battlefield to continue the fight,” the citation reads. “Petty Officer Lee and his SEAL element maneuvered to assault an unidentified enemy position. He, his teammates, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams tanks engaged enemy positions with suppressive fire from an adjacent building to the north.
“To protect the lives of his teammates, he fearlessly exposed himself to direct enemy fire by engaging the enemy with his machine gun and was mortally wounded in the engagement. His brave actions in the line of fire saved the lives of many of his teammates,” it states.
According to Stars and Stripes newspaper, which had a reporter embedded with Army units in the city during the operation, an insurgent sniper shot and wounded a Navy SEAL in the face at the start of a battle that lasted at least an hour over a five-block area. A second SEAL was wounded in the battle.
Lee completed the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course in 2004 and joined the Coronado, Calif.-based SEAL Team 5 a year ago. He deployed to Iraq with his team earlier this year.
A native of Hood River, Ore., he enlisted in 2001 and completed naval air technical training in Pensacola, Fla. After an initial attempt to complete the grueling BUD/S program in Coronado and a temporary reassignment to the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lee rejoined the program and completed the course to become a SEAL.
Lee also has been posthumously awarded a Bronze Star with combat “V” for his actions in Iraq during his team’s combat tour and the Purple Heart medal, Geisen said. His awards and decorations include the Combat Action Ribbon, Meritorious Unit Commendation and the National Defense Service Medal.
Platoon mates share remembrances of fallen SEAL
KPBS SAN DIEGO (2006-08-15)
Second-Class Petty Officer Marc Alan Lee is the first Navy SEAL to die in
Iraq. He was killed when he stepped into heavy enemy fire in the southern city
of Ramadi on August 2nd. SEALs are among the most elite forces in the U.S.
military. Lee was based in Coronado. He was laid to rest this weekend at Fort
Rosecrans National Cemetery. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps has this remembrance.
As a kid in Hood River, Oregon, one of Marc Lee's dreams was to become a professional soccer player. But as a freshman on the high-school team, his chances looked slim.
Talcott: "Marc was a horrible soccer player."
Pastor Chuck Talcott was Lee's soccer coach. He would become Lee's lifelong mentor and friend.
Talcott: "He worked so hard, and he had such a drive and determination to become an excellent player. He really wanted at first to become a professional, and he would ask me as he was growing up, 'Do you think I have what it takes? Do you think I have what it takes?'"
Apparently he did have it. Talcott says Lee eventually became a soccer star - a good team player and even a bit of a show-off. Later, he overcame hellish training and pneumonia to become a Navy SEAL. Lee went on to dominate Iraqi soccer fields in friendly matches against Iraqi soldiers.
But Lee's platoon mates say his ambition and courage never masked the size of his heart.
Nick: "You know he's just secure in himself that, you know, a bunch of big, tough alpha male dudes that are trying not to show any emotion at all -- he managed to do it, and that's rare."
That's Nick, one of several Navy seals who fought alongside Marc Lee in Iraq. They gathered at a family barbecue and agreed to speak to KPBS on the condition we only use their first names. They remember Lee as brawny and boastful, but he also spoke openly of his love for God and family. When the guys played country music and rock n' roll at base camp, Lee turned up his own soft rock. At the blackjack tables in Vegas, Lee drew big crowds with his boundless energy. Teammate Kevin says Lee had no problem wearing a certain pair of pajama pants -- a gift from his wife, Maya.
Kevin: "They were chick pants. I'm going to go ahead and say this. They were chick pants, but he really didn't care. I think Maya bought 'em for him, and he wore 'em without shame. And we'd give him such a hard time, but he didn't care."
Lee's platoon mates say the bond that formed in the first days of training makes them brothers. So when Lee was killed, it felt like losing family. While fighting insurgents, the team came under surprise fire from a nearby building. Lee stepped in front of them to fire his machine gun at the attackers. Then he was hit.
Nick: "You know, it's baffling."
Nick says each SEAL struggles with the loss.
Nick: "To see your friend do that and, uh, and then die. You know, it's like an emotional experience for every guy in this room, as well as the other guys that were there. Um, and it's hard to describe, really."
His buddies say Lee was a consummate professional, and the way he died is proof of that. Kevin says he hopes for the same ending if he meets his fate in combat.
Kevin: "He died with his buddies and it's hard to convey that to his family because a loss is a loss and you can't replace it. And I'm sure he's looking down happy that we were around him in his final moments."
Marc Lee's pastor, Chuck Talcott, once questioned Lee's ambition to join the military. Now Talcott says he is proud of Lee.
Talcott: "To me, war is the last step a nation has to take to protect itself, to defend itself. And yet glory can be found in war. What he did was glorious. He stood up for other people, and he died for other people. He died for a teammate. He died for us."
Marc Alan Lee was 28 years old. Lee was posthumously awarded a Silver Star for gallantry and is survived by two siblings, his mother, and his wife. For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.
© Copyright 2006, KPBS
Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marc Lee died Aug. 2 when he stepped into the line of fire to save the lives of his wounded teammates.
And the mother of one of those wounded SEALs flew to California to sit next to Lee’s mother at the memorial service Aug. 12.
Her trip was paid for by the SEAL-Naval Special Warfare Foundation, one of the things the group does for the Navy special warfare community, said Bob Rieve, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer.
All of the foundation’s funds come from donations, including money it gets as one of the charities in the Combined Federal Campaign.
“It means a lot to us that we even qualify,” said Rieve, a retired Navy captain and 30-year SEAL.
When the SEAL-Naval Special Warfare Foundation became part of CFC in 2002, barely two years after its creation, the move helped jump-start donations, Rieve said. “Not only that, it has helped us get the word out about what we do,” he added.
The foundation is one of 53 charities in the Military Veterans Patriots Service Organizations of America, one of the umbrella CFC organizations that allow charities to be grouped by their mission.
Most of the 44 charities in the MVPSOA for the 2005 CFC campaign saw an increase in donations over 2004, despite fears of a general decrease because of donations to Hurricane Katrina victims, said Patrick Maguire, president of Maguire/Maguire Inc., an association management firm that specializes in helping CFC federation groups.
In 2005, pledges to MVPSOA charities topped $9.1 million, up almost $1 million, or 11.5 percent, from 2004.
“The generosity of federal workers and the military was stunning,” Maguire said.
There is continued interest in giving to military- and veterans-related charities, he said.
Overall in 2005, pledges rose 4.5 percent from the previous year, according to the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the CFC campaign. The $268.5 million in pledges represented an increase of more than $11 million over the $257 million pledged in 2004.
Such charitable campaigns show that federal workers are very generous, said OPM spokesman Peter Graves, in an e-mail response to questions.
Seventy-one local CFC campaigns reported raising more than $2 million for Katrina victims, and 250 others planned to hold special fundraisers, he said.
CFC is increasingly promoting online giving, which often appeals to younger workers. Officials found that the average per-capita gift from online donors was $225 more than the average for donors who pledged via paper methods, Graves said.
The CFC began in 1961 to merge charitable fundraising into a limited time each year and to regulate what had been an “uncontrolled free-for-all” prior to the 1950s, according to OPM.
CFC is the only authorized fundraising solicitation in the federal workplace, although the military services also allow their relief societies to hold separate fundraising drives.
More than 300 local CFC campaigns exist, including one for those living overseas. Each chooses when its six-week fundraising drive will take place any time between Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. Most start in late September or early October.
Federal workers and military personnel pledged nearly $113,000 to the SEAL-Naval Special Warfare Foundation in the 2005 CFC, Rieve said. This year, the foundation has used more than $100,000 for scholarships and educational expenses. Some 44 scholarships totaling about $58,000 went to spouses and children of those in the Navy special warfare community, he said.
After 11 SEALs died in Afghanistan in June 2005, the foundation helped pay for family members’ trips to memorial services at bases in California, Virginia and Hawaii.
“We rented over 100 rooms,” Rieve said.
The foundation also will pay $100 per course for books, up to $400 per year, for all active-duty Navy special warfare people accepted into the Navy tuition assistance program.
The foundation also uses part of its CFC contributions to sponsor a family event at SEAL bases in California and Virginia.