• by: Brian Rich
  • recipient: MCLB Albany, GA- The US Marine Corps and our Elected Officials in Washington
Most of you probably know by now who CPl Dustin Jerome Lee is. For those of you who do not, please take the time to read a little more about him and view photos of him at

In a nutshell-
Dustin was a K9 War Dog Handler and MP who was killed in Iraq on March 21 2007. His K9 Lex survived but with injuries.
He received shrapnel wounds to his body, almost lost his tail, and to this day still has shrapnel lodged near his spine. The Veterinarians opted to leave this shrapnel in place as to not risk damage to Lex's spine.
Since Dustin's death the family has tried diligently to get Lex adopted to them so that they may care for him. Lex was of course the last (person) to see Dustin alive.
Even before the incident of the RPG that killed Dustin, Lex was destined to retire upon returing from this tour in Iraq. The family has waited patiently for the last remaining part of Dustin to arrive home...and they are still waiting.
It is seven months after the incident and no Lex. I know there is government bureaucracy and paperwork, but all that was done...finished and turned over the proper personnel. They feverishly worked around the clock, made phone calls, sent emails, contacted all the right people....Lex is still not home. They jumped through all the right hoops and answered all the right questions to be able to adobt Lex.
Instead the Marine Corps has decided that Lex did not need to retire and is instead located at the kennels at MCLB Albany, Georgia, back in training.

Can you imagine how heart broken and distraught this made the family once they found out they where not getting Lex for possibly 2 more years or until they where done with him? Rachel and Jerome can not have their son back, they gave him up to the Marine Corps and he was killed in the fight against terrorism during Operation Iraqi Freeedom. Why not retire Lex to Dustin's family? I think its the least the Marine Corp could offer. They do not want to replace Dustin, they just want the last piece of his life that is still alive. And by adopting Lex it will bring back a small part of Dustin and maybe a smile and laugh that they have not had in months.

They say that Lex is needed to train other K9s and handlers there at MCLB Albany. As far I know that shrapnel is still located in his back while he trains.. We can all understand that Lex may be an asset to the Kennel in training, and is a great, obedient companion, but how long until the damage that he sustained in the blast catches up with him. Lex desreves a nice home to retire to and a family that will love and take care of him.

Dustin's family are not strangers to handling K9s. Rachel, herself trained with Search and Rescue K9s. So its not like the family is unfamiliar in having to deal with trained K9s....Dustin recieved his love of dogs from somewhere right?

So I am asking everyone that knows of Dustin and Lex's story to send your comments to me. Write them here on the blog, email me, how ever you can....Give me your thoughts and opinions and we will do our best to get Lex to Dustin's parents.

A letter from Lex, written by John Burnam
I'm a U.S. Marine and the primary element of a two-member team trained to hunt and locate explosives. My partner and I trained as a team for many months honing our expertise to save American lives in the War on Terrorism in Iraq.

The date is March 21, 2007 and I was on the job in Fallujah, Iraq when an enemy fired Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) exploded in our midst. I was blasted to the ground. I'm Stunned. My head is ringing and my body feels numb. My eyes can't quite focus on anything.

My partner is lying next to me severely wounded and bleeding. I move to him and touch him but he's not responding. I feel sharp pains in my side and back. I'm bleeding but deal with it and concentrate on comforting my partner and protecting him from further harm.

Everything happened so fast that it caused disorientation and confusion. My senses pick up the lingering smell of burnt powder and smoke from the explosion. I hear lots of American voices and heavy boot-steps hurrying all around us. They reach our location and immediately attend to my partner. And then they carry him away. I'm separated from my partner for the first time. I'm not clear of thought and then I too am carried way but to a different hospital.

I'm in a building lying on a table with lights above and people talking. Still dazed and confused I hear a strange voice say my name, Lex! I gesture a slight reflex of acknowledgement. Lex! You are going to be okay buddy! Just lay still. We are going to take care of your hurts, so stay calm okay, Lex. My eyes dart around the room searching for your partner, but he's not there and no one can interpret my thoughts. I'm released from the hospital and well enough to travel so they transfer me from Iraq to a U.S. Marine Corp base in Albany, Georgia. I really miss my partner, Dusty. I know something has happened to him because he would never have left me alone for so long.

Yes, my name is Lex. I'm a seven year old German shepherd Military Working Dog. My master and loyal partner is Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee, U.S. Marine Corps canine handler from Mississippi. I'm well disciplined to my master's commands and expertly trained to sniff out bombs and explosives. Where's my master, Dusty? Where's Dusty, my partner? No one can understand me but Dusty. Where's Dusty?

Iraq was to be my last combat tour before retirement. Dusty talked to me all the time about going home and adopting me. I sure do miss my Dusty. He is the best friend I've ever had. I love that crazy Marine from Mississippi!

No one can measure the love and unconditional loyalty I have for Dusty. I'd sacrifice my own life for him and he knows it. I just wish I could have stopped that RPG or pushed Dusty away from that powerful blast. It all happened in a blink of an eye and I didn't see it coming until it was too late. Now I sit alone in my kennel-run waiting for the day Dusty shows up.

The U.S. Marines are treating me very well. I get enough food and water and exercise each day. And the Veterinarian comes by to examine my wounds on a regular basis. I just can't sleep well at night. I wake up to every little noise and I think about Dusty. Where can that Marine be?

The nights are long. The days turn into weeks. Still no Dusty! My wounds are healing and the hair is growing back. The pain still resides in my back but I can walk okay. I have a piece of shrapnel near my spine that the Veterinarians avoided removing for fear of further health complications. I've been fortunate to be declared physically unable to perform in a combat zone.
One of the dog handlers gave me a real good bath and grooming. I felt so refreshed because I was on my way to meet Dusty'9s family. Maybe Dusty will be there waiting for me. When I arrived I sensed something was not quite right. Dusty wasn't there and everyone was sad, but very happy to greet me. I then realized that I was attending Dusty's funeral. Everyone showed up to pay their respects.

Dusty is a real American hero and he was buried with full military honors. I was so proud to have been his last best friend and partner. At one particular moment of total silence during the ceremony, I sniffed a slight scent in the air that was very familiar. It smelled like Dusty. I figured he sent me a signal that he knew I was there! I moaned a sigh of grief that he would only hear and understand.

I was greeted by the Lee family with joy in their hearts. It felt so warm and comfortable to be with my partner's loving family. I wanted to stay but I was escorted away after the funeral and back to Albany, Georgia. What is going to happen to me now?

Wait a minute! I was due for retirement, right? Why did the military take me to see Dusty's family and not leave me there? I belong with them in Mississippi not here in Georgia. There is something very wrong with this picture!

The Lee family adopting me would not be too much to ask considering they will never again see their son, grandson, brother, nephew and friend. Adopting me will keep a big part of Dusty's life alive for them and for me. It will enable Dusty's family to experience what he already knew about me. I loved and protected him everywhere we went and even on the battlefield in Iraq. It's time the U.S. Marine Corps allowed Dustin's family to adopt me. I'm not a young pup anymore, you know! I'9m of retirement age and I want to spend the rest of my life with the Lee family. It's where I now belong!

So please help the Lee family adopt me!

German Shepherd Dog
Military Working Dog
U.S. Marine Corps
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