Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dustin Lee remembered

Jerome Lee of Stonewall has been a trooper for Troop H of the Mississippi Highway Patrol since 1982. He can still vividly remember his six-year old son, Dustin, playing in his patrol car.

“He always wanted to call the dispatcher on the radio to tell them I was in service,” said Jerome Lee Thursday afternoon. “I let him play with the siren and lights some. He wanted to become a state trooper.”

But Dustin Jerome Lee won’t be able to fulfill his dream of being a trooper and following in his father’s footsteps. Dustin Lee, 20, died earlier this week serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq -- six weeks before he was expected to return home.

The Lee family was notified Tuesday of their sacrifice by Marine Corps officials.

“He was a very focused, intense individual,” said the elder Lee by phone. “He always excelled in everything he set out to do. He had his whole life mapped out.”

Dustin Lee was serving in the 3/14 G Battery, 3rd platoon in Falluja when he was killed. Jerome Lee said his son died of injuries suffered in a mortar attack.

“He was hit in the chest with shrapnel from the blast and was medi-vaced out of the area to a hospital,” said Jerome Lee. “He died a little while later.”

The two men talked the day before Dustin Lee was killed. Jerome Lee said his son was sounding upbeat and in high spirits.

“Maybe it was the knowledge he was coming home in about six weeks. I don’t know. But he left me a voice message on my answering machine before he went out on his last mission,” Jerome Lee said.

Jerome Lee played back the message left by his son. In the message, Dustin Lee said he just wanted to call before he headed out and to tell everyone he loved them.

“He said he’d talk to us later,” Jerome Lee said.

Dustin Lee, according to his father, loved to ride dirt bikes, a sport Dustin Lee picked up from his younger brother, Camryn Lee. Jerome Lee said Camryn and Dustin’s sister Madyson, were doing as well as could be expected with the news of the death.

Jerome Lee is trying to grapple with the loss of his eldest son. Nonetheless, he is still proud of the boy who once sat in his patrol car and wanted to follow his daddy into serving others.

“He always wanted to help other people,” said Jerome Lee. “He loved his country and was proud to be a Marine.”

Asked, despite the devastating loss, if he was proud of his son’s service to his country and his sacrifice Jerome Lee replied quietly, “Most definitely. I’m very proud of him.”

From the Star

Related Link:
Dustin J. Lee dies of injuries from combat operations