Marc Lee and the Fall of Ramadi


Ramadi fell to ISIS. Sunni support, the leadership of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the strategy put forth by American leadership are all hanging by a thread. For his part, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest is standing firm on behalf of the administration. Despite calls from military leaders of a fresh review of American strategy in the wake of the latest failure, Earnest said, “no review of our ISIL strategy is forthcoming.” Perhaps you aren’t familiar with Ramadi. Let’s step back in time a bit. The date was August 2, 2006. Marc Lee was a Navy Seal, fulfilling his dreams that took root when he was a child in Hood River, Oregon. Abandoning his first goal of playing professional soccer, Marc overcame hellish training and pneumonia to become a Navy Seal. His fellow Seals remember him as “brawny and boastful,” but one who “openly spoke of his love for his God and his family.” His pastor and mentor, Chuck Towelcot, praised Marc for his “glorious bravery” and passion for his faith. The 28-year-old warrior was the best of who America is.

But August 2, 2006 would be a day his family would never forget. Lee was fighting beside American Sniper Chris Kyle. Later, Kyle would tell the story of August 2, 2006 in his book. “Marc Lee was at the lead, above us on the steps. He turned, glancing out a window on the staircase. As he did, he saw something and opened his mouth to shout a warning. He never got the words out. In that split second, a bullet passed right through his open mouth and flew out the back of his head. He dropped down in a pile on the steps. We had been set up.” On that fateful day, Marc Lee became the first Navy Seal to die in Iraq. He was survived by two siblings, his mother, and his wife. At his funeral, Pastor Towelcot said, “He died for other people. He died for a teammate. He died for us.” The American surge captured this key Iraqi city. Order would soon be restored. Citizens could walk down the streets. But nine years later, how things have changed. The city has been turned over to poorly trained soldiers backed by the weak Iraqi government. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the city where Lee gave his life was “not symbolic in any way.” Josh Earnest, asked about the events of the past few days, said, “We aren’t going to light our hair on fire” over the loss of the key Iraqi outpost.

Marc’s mother, Debbie Lee, has lamented the loss of the city and the reversal of the gains her son’s unit had secured. Marc has been awarded a Silver Star posthumously. His bravery and sacrifice stand as a symbol of all that is good about our military men and women. And now, with so many of their gains reversed, the response of the White House is to not even review their strategy, and certainly to “not light our hair on fire” over the loss. A legitimate argument can be made that we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place. But we did. And with the help of the surge, the military action was considered a great success. But as the “JV Team” (President Obama’s own words, describing ISIS) takes hold of cities once secured by American blood, it is easy to understand the sentiments of Debbie Lee. And in the wake of the daily victories of ISIS/ISIL, perhaps the time has come for someone in leadership to light his hair on fire.


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