Mother of Fallen SEAL: Dempsey Must Apologize to Other Families for Ramadi Comments

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Washington, DC

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote an apology letter on Monday to Debbie Lee, the mother of the first Navy SEAL killed in Ramadi, Iraq, for downplaying the city’s importance.

Dempsey, the highest-ranking military official in the U.S. armed forces, followed his letter with a call to the mother on Tuesday to reiterate his apology.

Although she accepted the general’s “genuine” apology, Lee told Breitbart News that Dempsey still needs to make a public apology to the other families who were affected by his comments and indicated that the need for “damage control” drove the general to make the call in the first place.

“When there is a big media drive on something, you do whatever it takes to try and get that shut down,” she said. “I’m sure they were trying to do a little damage control.”

“I think he was being genuine,” added Lee. “I’m a trusting person and I give people the benefit of the doubt, but I did let him know we were going to keep our eyes on him.”

On April 16, Dempsey told reporters Ramadi “is not symbolic in any way. It’s not been declared part of [ISIS’] ‘caliphate’ on one hand or central to the future of Iraq.”

The general issued a written apology the following Monday after Lee released an open letter on April 17 demanding an apology for “the families whose loved ones’ blood in Ramadi.”

She posted the letter on her blog, an organization she founded to provide aid and support to service members and their families.

The general called Lee on Tuesday to personally apologize.

Lee said Dempsey told her that “he needed to sharpen his language.”

“I accepted his apology,” she told Breitbart News. “My goal was to get our government and our leadership to be so careful about what they say about our troops, the pain that was inflicted by his comments.”

The mother said she encouraged the general to make a public apology to the families of other warriors killed in Ramadi after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“This was not just about my son Marc,” she added.

In the letter, Dempsey did acknowledge the sacrifice of those who served alongside Lee’s son Marc and commended them for serving their country, but he did not specifically apologize to the other families.

“Dempsey should extend the apology to the soldiers who died in Ramadi, the ones who served there and were injured on that battlefield, the ones who are still struggling with PTSD,” said Lee.

The general indicated to Lee that he will address the issue publicly — the next time he stands before the press or whenever he is asked about it at a public event.

Initially, Lee described the letter as a “soft” apology, but then she said Dempsey sounded “genuine” on the phone and she “accepted” his apology for saying Ramadi falling to ISIS “is not symbolic in any way.”

Dempsey “reiterated again the apology [during the call] and said he hoped I did accept it and I said ‘yes,’ I accept your apology,” the mother told Breitbart News.

“He said that what he was trying to convey in his message is that Ramadi is not significant or important to ISIL,” she added.

During an April 19 appearance Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot channel 125, Lee said she was “infuriated” by Dempsey’s comments.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, chastised Dempsey for downplaying the significance of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province.

McCain reportedly said 187 U.S. service members died to defend Ramadi and another 1,150 were wounded.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), an Iraq war veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee, disagreed with Dempsey’s view that Ramadi was not significant to the fight against ISIS.

Lee also disagrees with Dempsey’s assessment.

“When he talked about that [ISIS] is a different enemy, a different fight, I totally disagree with that,” she said. “I think this is the same enemy and the same fight we were fighting back in 2006. They may have change their tactics a little bit. They may have change their name, but this is still that same enemy.”

“I do disagree with the general in that. I think Ramadi is going to be the key to taking that area back,” added Lee. “It’s the capital of the largest province in Iraq and that is where the Sunnis are.”

She said that Dempsey welcomed and agreed with the strategy advice she shared with him, which she could not discuss publicly.

Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83