Freedom comes at a cost! We have all heard the quote “Freedom is not free,” and most Americans enjoy those freedoms but have not had to pay much, if anything at all. Our family has paid deeply, not financially with our life savings, but with something even more precious than gold: a life.
I am sitting in my Heroes room as I type this and am surrounded by pictures of Heroes who have paid that price and have fought, some bled, and many have died, so that we could be free. Next to me are the uniforms that my son Marc Alan Lee wore on the battlefield, jumping from aircraft, training, or attending an official ceremony. His combat boots and dive gear sit on the floor next to me, and on the shelf is the final cloth that we would associate with Marc, the folded flag I received at his funeral.
It is hard to believe that on August 2 it will be seven years since I was notified that Marc had heroically sacrificed his life so that his teammates could live and our freedoms would be protected. As you can imagine, that is the most devastating news a parent could receive and it was the toughest day of my life.
In 115 degree temperatures, carrying 150 plus pounds of gear, and fighting for 2 hours in the worst battle in Ramadi, Marc and his teammates never quit. They persevered, steady in their course of action, with purpose in spite of difficulties and obstacles. Marc’s buddy, Ryan, had been severely wounded, and twice Marc stood up into the direct line of fire to provide cover to get the medic up on the roof and then again to get everyone down. They rescued Ryan and sent him off for medical attention, and they returned to their base.
Discouraged, exhausted physically and emotionally, thinking that Ryan had probably died, they stripped off their gear and got some water to refresh themselves. The Chief came in and informed them they had just found 30 of the terrorists who had attacked them. Without hesitation Marc answered, “Roger that lets go get them.”
They did not whine and complain, they did not listen to what their bodies were telling them, but they let their minds take control, they persevered and went back to the battlefield. Marc’s final actions that day would find him standing into the direct line of fire, persevering, even in the face of death. He never quit!
Losing a child is the deepest pain anyone could ever experience, and I would not wish that even for my enemies. Time changes the frequency and depth of that pain, but it never completely goes away. As we approach the anniversary of his death it resurfaces. The wounds of grief are healing, but this is one of those times you see the tender scars, yet… I am reminded of Marc’s actions, and recognize perseverance is exactly what has helped me to heal and encourage others through their grief process.
The days following Marc’s death, I knew God would give me the strength to survive. It was not what I was feeling at the time, but what I knew in my mind. Just as Marc and his teammates did not listen to their physically exhausted bodies, letting their minds take control, I choose to do the same.
I will be honest and tell you that there have been tears flowing as I write this while thinking of Marc and how much I miss him: his crazy sense of humor and antics, his ornery grin, his beautiful brown eyes, his amazing hugs, his ability to love so selflessly, his faith, and love for his family.
Perseverance is described as “steady, persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.” Marc displayed that throughout his life, and I think that is one of the main character qualities in a SEAL.
I made the choice in the midst of the grief, difficulties, obstacles, and discouragement to never quit and instead persevere. The purpose: to honor and remember Marc; the course of action: to thank and support those who have paid for my freedoms and the families left behind; the state: steady and faithful with God’s love and joy.
Just above me I have a wall with pictures of my family, biological and adopted. All of them were very connected to and deeply loved Marc. It has been a blessing and pleasure to embrace my new family, my “adopted boys,” and watch them as they marry, have babies, and live life. They were Marc’s final gift to me.
So as you remember the sacrifice Marc made on August 2, 2006, please also remember the sacrifice of each of our fallen heroes and their families. I would encourage each of you to read Marc’s amazing last letter home and accept his challenge, and do a random act of kindness and then pass a copy of his letter to the person you do it for!
This will be how we celebrate the hero Marc was and remember the price he paid for our freedoms. You can honor Marc’s memory and support other families of the fallen here.
HOOYAH MARC LEE! YOU ARE NEVER FORGOTTEN!