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May 18, 2007

"I'd Follow Him With A Spoon"

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again

- Hamlet, Act I, Scene II

The blog Princess has often complained that the mainstream media distains to write about our fallen heroes. That error of omission is gallantly corrected in yesterday's Washington Post by staff writer Dan Morse with this eloquent tribute to the Lion of Fallujah, Major Doug Zembiec:

About 40 enlisted men gathered under a tree, telling stories about their former commander. Some had flown in from as far away as California, prompting one officer to observe: Your men have to follow your orders; they don't have to go to your funeral.

The men knew firsthand how Zembiec, who lived outside Annapolis, had come to be known as the Lion of Fallujah.

The story is one of their favorites. It was 2004, in the Jolan district of Fallujah, and Zembiec was a captain. They were on a rooftop, taking fire from AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. They tried to radio an Abrams tank below to open fire in the direction of the enemy. No good.

Zembiec raced down the stairs and out to the street and climbed onto the tank. Gunnery Sgt. Pedro Marrufo, 29, who watched from the rooftop, remembers Zembiec getting a Marine inside the tank to open the hatch. Insurgents shot at Zembiec as he instructed the men in the tank where to fire.

Cpl. Chad Borgmann, 28, who went to Zembiec's funeral from Camp Pendleton, Calif., said yesterday that boarding tanks during firefights and similar actions is typically the work of enlisted men. If a lance corporal falls, there are 40 to take his place. But there are fewer captains, Borgmann said, and fewer still who always seemed to be out in front.

Zembiec had a way of standing out from his peers:

Through it all, he remained an unabashed warrior. "A terrific day. We just whacked two [insurgents] running down an alley with AK-47s," he told a Los Angeles Times reporter in 2004. Of the 168-member unit he commanded, about one-third suffered casualties.

"From Day One, I've told [my troops] that killing is not wrong if it's for a purpose, if it's to keep your nation free or protect your buddy," he told the Times. "One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."

But perhaps my favorite line in the whole piece, and the one which brought tears to my eyes, was this:

While Zembiec was stationed at Camp Pendleton after the Fallujah campaign, his parents visited. Zembiec and his father, Don, drove onto the base to shoot skeet and were stopped at the gate by a young Marine. Are you Captain Zembiec's father? the Marine asked. Yes, his father said.

"I was with your son in Fallujah," the Marine said. "He was my company commander. If we had to go back in there, I would follow him with a spoon."

I cannot imagine a finer epitaph for a Marine officer.

BostonMaggie also links to other coverage. She had a similar reaction to the WaPo article. Sometimes, the media get it right, and more than right.

Kudos to Dan Morse and the Washington Post, and thanks to ZZMike for the heads up.

Posted by Cassandra at May 18, 2007 07:45 AM

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There was a fine epitaph to Major Zembiec at BlackFive, with many, many, postings from people who knew him. It is well worth the reading.

He was one fine man and Marine, and we are all lucky that such men live and serve. I hope we all remember him; he is not to be forgotten in the banal ways of the modern media.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 18, 2007 09:55 AM

When I was a kid, one could not avoid seeing movies, TV shows, or hearing tales of WWII and Korean War heroes.

Today, you only hear of the heroes when you read the MILblogs. Nada, zip, zilch via the MSM outlets. The exceptions only prove the rule.

I was completely unaware of MILblogs until I was talking with one of my attorneys about the war and how all the news seemed to be so bad. He, a former naval aviator, pointed me to the MILblogs, oh maybe two years ago. Since then I have heard of more honorable people, doing selfless acts, and putting it all on the line for each other and for the rest of us, than I could have ever imagined.

I am continually humbled by people like Maj. Zembiec and in no small part I am shamed that I am not able to do more than I currently find that I can.

The final scene in Saving Pvt. Ryan covers the emotion for me...

God’s speed Maj. Zembiec.

Posted by: bthun at May 19, 2007 11:07 PM

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