Celebrating an American Hero: Lt. Col Lee, Silver Star, Recon Marine

There are few times in a person’s life that he can be part of a celebration where a true American hero is recognized.  This past Friday, April 8, 2011, I was given the privilege to be part of a program where Lt. Col. Alex Lee, USMC (Ret.) was recognized by receiving a letter from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos.

The event was held at “The Laurels of Summit Ridge”, in Asheville, North Carolina which is a facility that offers both assisted and independent living where Lt. Col. Lee resides.  The Laurel is located right next to the Charles George V.A. Medical Center in Asheville.   Ms. Judi Boyer, Administrator of the Laurels, worked very hard to keep this event a secret from Lt. Col. Lee while at the same time had the meeting room decorated in a very patriotic manner to set the mood for the event.  She had told all the invited guests that the purpose of this celebration was to show respect and thanks for all the veterans living there.  She did a magnificant job!

Marines, friends and fellow veterans came from all over the country to witness this event.  There were three detachments represented from the Marine Corps League; the Speedy Wilson Detachment, Lexington, SC; the Blue Ridge Detachment, Hendersonville, NC and the Owens/Kennemore Detachment, Greenville, SC.  The Wounded Warrior Regiment was represented by Captain Charlie Hall and a Marine Color Guard was there from Ammunition Company (-), 4th Supply Battalion, 4th MLG out of Greenville, SC; commanded by Captain Bill Weppner and M/Sgt Diaz and 10 other Marines and Corpsman.

Lt. Col Alex Lee is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran that served two tours in Vietnam.  The first one was with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines in the 1965-66 time frames.  Then, Captain Lee was a Company Commander where he earned the Silver Star for heroism.  He wrote his first book entitled “Utter’s Battalion” about his experiences.  Later on in the 1969-70 time frames he was asked by General Herman Nickerson to come back to Vietnam and command the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company which he did.  Again, he distinguished himself on a number of occasions and received many personal decorations.  He wrote his second book about those experiences, entitled “Force Recon Command”.  During his 27 years career in the Marine Corps, he held many key level billets to include a couple at Headquarters Marine Corps.  Lt. Col. Lee was brought down by a stroke; something the enemy could never do.

The reading of his two books is highly recommended for those that really wants to understand what it was like to be involved in that type of war.  Lt. Col. Lee’s no nonsense style of writing will put you in the field with his Marines as you read through the books.

Well, the event started by having Ms. Boyer explain why we all were really there.  The Marine Color Guard did their thing and they were impressive.  Captain Hall was introduced and he explained the importance of the event and then went to read the letter form the Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Lt. Col. Lee was then asked if he would like to share his thoughts.  He stood tall and thanked everyone for remembering.  The entire event was outstanding.  Refreshments were made available and then the pictures and story telling commenced.  One very humorous thing happened.  There were two elderly ladies, Edith and Grace, that lived at the Laurels and they came up to Lt. Col Lee and told him they did not know that he was so important. They wanted to have dinner with him that evening!

All in all, it was a very rewarding experience.  The entire event clearly goes to illustrate that Marines take care of their own and those that served before us will not be forgotten.