On August 2, 2006, Petty Officer Second Class Marc Alan Lee, a member of Navy SEAL Team Three, tragically lost his life in a firefight in the Iraqi city of Ramadi as part of American military’s effort to take that city during Operation Iraqi Freedom an operation that lasted from 2003-2011. Becoming the first Navy SEAL to lose his life during this conflict.
During a Pentagon Press Conference on April 16th, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say about the possibility of Ramadi being overtaken by ISIS: “The city itself is not symbolic in any way“ and “It’s not been declared part of [Islamic State’s] ‘caliphate’ on one hand or central to the future of Iraq… I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of a campaign.”
Several were upset with General Dempsey’s dismissive attitude towards the significance of the possible loss of Ramadi including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who stated that it was “a gross mischaracterization.” No one was more upset than Debbie Lee, a Gold Star Mom and founder of “America’s Mighty Warriors,” a charity that seeks to help the families of those that have sacrificed for our freedom.
Debbie Lee was the mother of Marc Lee, the first Navy SEAL to lose his life during Operation Iraqi Freedom while fighting in Ramadi on August 2, 2006.
Mrs. Lee contacted the Pentagon in an effort to get a message to General Dempsey to express her displeasure with General Dempsey on his dismissal of the significance of Ramadi but was stonewalled as they refused to give her a direct email address to contact the General only offering her the option of sending him a letter via the USPS. Realizing that this approach was unlikely to reach General Dempsey, Mrs. Lee chose to offer this open letter:
I am shaking and tears are flowing down my cheeks as I watch the news and listen to the insensitive, pain inflicting comments made by you in regards to the fall of Ramadi.
“The city itself is not symbolic in any way” oh really are you willing to meet with me and with the families who have lost a son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, aunt, uncle, grandson, or teammate?
My son Marc Lee was the first Navy SEAL who sacrificed his life in Ramadi Iraq Aug 2, 2006. His blood is still in that soil and forever will be. Remember that was when so many of our loved ones were taken from us. You said that “it’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand or central to the future of Iraq.” My son and many others gave their future in Ramadi. Ramadi mattered to them. Many military analysts say that as goes Ramadi so goes Iraq.
What about the troops who sacrificed their limbs and whose lives will never be the same. Our brave warriors who left a piece of themselves in Ramadi. What about the troops who struggle with PTS/TBI who watched their teammates breath their last or carried their wounded bodies to be medevac’d out of Ramadi.
I’ve traveled to Ramadi and visited Camp Marc Lee in 2007. I brought back soil from that city where Marc breathed his last. I interviewed Iraqi General Anwer in 2010 when I returned. I asked him “If you could say one thing to the American people what would you tell them? He paused and with deep emotion said “We will tell our children, our grandchildren, for generations to come we will tell them what Americans have done. There is American blood poured out on our soil.” It seems the Iraqis understand the importance more than you do sir.
You sir owe an apology to the families whose loved ones blood was shed in Ramadi. Ramadi matters to us and is very symbolic to us. You need to apologize to our troops whose bodies were blown to pieces from IEDs and bullet holes leaving parts and pieces behind, Ramadi matters to them. You need to apologize to our troops who endured the extreme temperatures and battled the terrorists in some of the worst battlefields in Iraq, Ramadi matters to them. They carry vivid memories of the battles and the teammates whose future is gone, Ramadi matters to them.
You and this administration have minimized that Ramadi could fall, now you are minimizing that it is falling, but you Sir WILL NOT minimize the sacrifice my son Marc Lee made or any of our brave warriors!
Awaiting an Apology
Following the publicity that followed Debbie Lee’s letter, General Martin Dempsey offered this apology:
Dear Mrs. Lee
I’ve read your letter, and I do apologize if I’ve added to your grief.
Marc and so many others died fighting to provide a better future for Iraq. He and those with whom he served did all that their nation asked.’They won their fight, and nothing will ever diminish their accomplishments nor the honor in which we hold their service.
We are in a different fight now, with a different enemy, and with a different relationship with the Government of Iraq.
They must determine the path and pace of this fight. That’s what I intended to convey.
Martin E. Dempsey
General, U.S. Army
General Martin Dempsey also followed up his letter with an apologetic phone call to Debbie Lee.
Mike Opelka, the editor of FireWire, TheBlaze.com‘s daily newsletter and host of Pure Opelka, a Saturday program on The Blaze Radio Network conducted an interview with Debbie Lee that had a summation of the events that had taken place:
On a final note, another member of SEAL Team Three was Chris Kyle of American Sniper fame who served with Marc Lee in Iraq. In his book ‘American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History‘ Chris Kyle described the firefight that cost Marc Lee his life and also severely wounded fellow team member Ryan “Biggles” Job, and how seriously that hurt the morale of the team. Earlier in the book Chris Kyle made this statement about Marc Lee that describes the type of person he was:
“Before every op, a bunch of the platoon would and say a prayer. Marc Lee would lead it, usually speaking from the heart rather than reciting a memorized prayer.”