Fallen Marine's memory lives on through Lex - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fallen Marine's memory lives on through Lex

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Corporal Dustin Lee in his dress blues Corporal Dustin Lee in his dress blues
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December 21, 2007

Albany -- If any picture captures the concept of companionship, this one does. A young Marine from Mississippi, with his dog by his side. But it was on the battlefields of Iraq where 20-year-old Cpl. Dustin Lee and Lex, a military working dog, formed an unbreakable bond.

"He wouldn't want to be anywhere but beside his side. He would always bark and wanted him to get him out of his kennel and take him with him," said Jerome Lee, Cpl. Lee's father.

Nine months ago in Falluja, Iraq, Cpl. Lee and Lex were struck by an RPG. Lex was wounded. His handler paid the ultimate sacrifice. Thousands of miles away in Quitman, Mississippi, another wound was opened.

"It couldn't be true, it couldn't be my son. As any other mother would fathom that their child would not be coming home," said Rachel Lee, mother of the fallen Marine.

But even through death, the bond between Lee and Lex could not be broken.

"A special bond formed only between a military working dog and his handler," said MCLB Albany's Base Commanding Officer Col. C.N. Haliday.

On the grounds of the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany where Lex, now fully recovered, first trained with Corporal Lee, a ceremony was held to mark his retirement and his transition from Marine to the newest member of the Lee family.

Addressing the guests from the podium, Jerome Lee said, "We thank the Marine Corps for allowing us to adopt Lex and allowing us to have a part of Dustin's life in our home. For that I thank you."

After lobbying for the adoption of the 8-year-old German shepherd, the Lees become the first family of a handler to adopt a military working dog; a dog that carries the memory of 16-year-old Mady Lee's older brother.

She said, "Every time I look into his eyes, every time I play tug of war with him, there's something there all the time about Dustin."

The months of waiting for the adoption to come through are now over for Dustin's family.

"Dustin would have been honored that everybody took the time out to honor him and Lex," said his father.

Camryn Lee, Dustin's 13-year-old brother, cannot wait to get his new dog, and brother's best friend back home. When asked what his older brother would think of the adoption that has captured the nation's attention, he said, "He would think it was amazing, he's probably smiling right now."

Smiling knowing that his dog and his family are now together, a new picture of companionship born of an undying friendship.

Before the Lee family could adopt Lex, he underwent an extensive screening process to meet the adoption requirements in accord with the Department of Defense.

Lex will leave for his new home in Mississippi tomorrow morning. He and the Lee family will be escorted home by the Patriot Guard Riders.

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