Monday, April 02, 2007

Dustin Lee laid to rest

People who live in small towns such as Enterprise, Stonewall and Quitman like to say they are all one big family.

Everybody knows everyone and, in one way or another, has a hand in raising the children who live there.

Dustin Lee probably didn’t realize just how big a family he truly had. But Saturday, that family turned out to honor and remember Lee, who was killed March 21 while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Fallujah, Iraq, during a mortar attack.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to know Dustin well,” said First Baptist Church Rev. Chris Cooksey during church services in Quitman. “But from talking with his fellow Marines, his family and friends, I can tell you he was a man of great strength, courage and unwavering faith. Life radiated from him.”

In a resolution passed by the Mississippi State Senate and House of Representatives, Lee was recognized as an All-American boy who gave his life so that others may know freedom. It also said Lee would be counted among America’s fallen heroes.

Having known the family for many years and watching Dustin Lee grow up, Ronnie Carter, a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper along with Dustin Lee’s father, Jerome Lee, said this was a very difficult 11 days for him.

“I’m here to help Dusty take his last ride up Hwy. 513,” Carter told the standing room only sanctuary. “He and I had so much in common. I appreciate Dusty’s mom and dad for allowing me to be a part of his life. I know he will always be a part of mine.”

Jerome and Rachel Lee were then presented a state flag by a highway patrol honor guard.

Lee’s commander, U.S. Marine Corps Col. Chris Halliday, said Lee was a special person who fit the Marine Corps and its commitment to excellence and dedication to the country in which it serves.

“Dustin was one of the few, that band of brothers,” said Halliday. “He will forever be a member of our eternal brotherhood.”

Under an increasingly cloudy sky, the motorcade arrived at the Stonewall Cemetery where about 100 people waited patiently, holding flags.

Veterans, some in their 70s and 80s, stood proudly rigid as they did many, many years ago when they wore the uniform of their respective services. More than 100 members of the Patriot Guard, a motorcycle organization manned by veterans of past conflicts, stood at the ready with American flags waving in

a now gusty wind. Teenage members of the local high school ROTC program saluted alongside seasoned officers, deputies and troopers from law enforcement agencies from across the state.

Small children, who play on the same baseball fields and playgrounds as did Dustin Jerome Lee, now watched as Marines carried their fallen comrade to his final place of rest. Standing silent, respective and in reverence to the man who gave his life for his country, they clutched their little American flags and watched as a local hero accepted his final salute.

Read the rest at the Star

Related Link:
Dustin Lee remembered

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