Debbie Lee is a leggy blonde from Arizona, almost six feet tall, with piercing blue eyes, and an inner glow that could power the San Onofre nuclear power plant here in California. She's kind, gentle, and never has a bad word to say about anybody. She clings to her Christian faith, which helped raise her out of a family that was often cruel. She is a widow of 13 years, with two surviving children who love her very much.
Debbie Lee is a Gold Star Mom. It's exclusive club to which she never aspired.
It means that she lost a child in the war. The war against nascent Radical Islam. A war that we are still fighting, and will be fighting for decades to come.
Debbie has told and re-told the story of how her hero, Marc, was killed in a hail of gunfire fighting radical Islamic terrorists.
She has shared the intimate details of his life and death in Ramdai, the first Navy Seal who was killed in the fighting in Iraq, and how he stood up not once but three times to save his fellow soldiers from a murderous attack by Al Quada.
She has done this for over a year for Move America Forward and our country, with no compensation, other than the gratitude of our soldiers and fellow Americans.
Deb filed this report from our MAF delegation (of which I was a part until last week) in Baghdad, Iraq.
It is a moving account of Christmas day with our troops. Grab a hanky.
It's Christmas morning 2007 and I arise, but not to the typical Christmas traditions. There is no Christmas Tree with sparkling lights to be plugged in, no presents to be opened, no stockings are hung, no Stereo to play the Christmas CD's. There will be no Christmas table set with fine china and family gathered around smelling the aroma of a roasting turkey or pumpkin pies. No children or grandchildren with their excitement and laughter filling the air. No snow falling on the ground. That doesn't mean that I won't be celebrating and remembering the birth of my savior who was born to be a sacrifice and give the best gift of all, an eternity with Him for those who believe. I'm closer than I have ever been to the physical place where Jesus Christ was born. This Christmas I am in Baghdad, Iraq sharing Christ's love and hope with the troops.
I sang Christmas Carols, recalled family traditions, and worshipped our Savior with a room full of cammo clad troops who also understand the true meaning of Christmas. We then headed to the Chow hall and were surprised by the attempts to make if feel like a special day and a special meal. They had carved ice sculptures, cakes decorated with scripture declaring Christ's birth, life size nativity scenes, Santa and his reindeer hanging from the ceiling, sculptured breads, fruits carved into floral decorations and animals. They had ham, turkey, prime rib, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, cranberries, rolls, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie and numerous other deserts, egg nog and sparkling cider.
I greeted several thousand soldiers with a Merry Christmas and handed them a Christmas card from a patriotic American who had contributed to the over 200,000 cards that we collected on the "Honoring Heroes at the Holidays" Tour. I think we came close to passing out cards to most of the 8000 troops stationed at this Forward Operating Base in Baghdad. Hopefully we were able to bring a little piece of America to each one of these brave men and women here. We mailed most of the cards along the Tour and hopefully reached most of the FOB's and encouraged most of our troops serving away from their families this Christmas. American's celebrated in the safety and comfort of their homes because our troops selflessly give for you and for me.
After spending time hugging and sharing with the troops, I threw on my body armor and Kevlar and jumped in the HMMWV and headed to the Muhalla to patrol the neighborhood. This Cav unit is there in Muhalla 24/7. They have successfully established relationships with the locals and have seen a major turn around in their Area of Responsibility.
I listened as several locals including Dr Moyead a neighborhood leader and Doctor, came up and thanked Lt Col Crider for the support and safety the American troops have provided to the locals. We were mobbed by the children as they begged for candy or "footballs" otherwise known as soccer balls back home. We witnessed the large group of children playing on the new slide and park that had just been constructed 3 weeks before. It was amazing how packed the streets were with people. I've never seen streets in America that had such a large percentage of people out in their neighborhoods.
It is an amazing turnaround from the pictures we saw in the briefing when we first arrived. When this unit took command in Feb there were no shops open, the streets were barren, and garbage was thrown and piled everywhere. They would regularly find bodies of the locals that the insurgents had brutally murdered for speaking to the American soldiers.
We then jumped back in the HMMWV'S and headed for the COP to have dinner with the platoons stationed there and share communion and a Christmas service. We stopped at a house just outside of the COP and dropped off a picture for the family that lives there. It was probably there first framed family portrait. Lt Col Crider had taken it when they stopped for tea on Sunday. We had stopped there several days before and given the 5 children backpacks and money. They were a very poor family and yet the children were very polite and said no thank you. We insisted and you could tell how excitied they were to open the backpacks and find out what was inside. They were so dirty but I coudn't resist sharing hugs with them from America. Our stop on Christmas day found the father outside along with the Dr. Moyaed. I had met Dr Moyead early in the Mauhalla but really didn't have a chance to visit. I shared with him Marc's card with his picture and told of his heroic actions the day he died. He told me Marc was not only my hero, but was there hero too. He told me he would put Marc's picture up on the wall so that next time I returned I would see it. He expressed his condolences and thanked me again for my sacrifice. I later asked Major Baer, if there was a place where they posted notices or pictures. He informed me he was talking about the large murals that were being painted on the cement barriers lining the new park they were putting in.
Upon entering the COP (command outpost) we notice Kevlar has been replaced by several Santa hats. I passed out cards to all of the guys there and joined them in the mess tent for dinner. Ham, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing and pumpkin pie. It was much down-sized from the meal at the Chow Hall. They don't have a kitchen at the COP so it has to be trucked in. We then were led in a Christmas service singing several of our Christmas carols and reading the Christmas Story from the Gospels. So many of the carols retold the story of a child born in a manager to save the world. It was breathtaking to hear all of these men singing acappella praises to our King intertwined with my lone female voice.
We ended the service with communion remembering just what Christ did and gave for us. The communion to go cups were something I had never witnessed before. They were just a swallow of grapejuice sealed in a little plastic cup and on the top of that was another layer with the wafer of communion bread and then another seal over it. All compacted to go ready to be trasported to any battelfield. This is a Christmas that I will never forget.
It's been said that there are only two that would willingly die for you. The first we had celebrated his birth today, Jesus Christ. The second I was blessed to be surrounded by this Christmas, the American Soldiers.
My son Marc Alan Lee, the first Navy Seal killed in Iraq 8-2-06 was one of those who laid down his life for you and for me.
I love him and miss him deeply and I will never forget the price he paid along with so many others who were called to give it all. That won't be required of most of these brave troops, but they are willing to do that for you and for me.
This Christmas I came to encourage and love our Heroes serving in the armed forces. To let them know that Americans across the nation send their thanks, love and support. To remind them that they and their families are not forgotten this Christmas.
Yet almost every time I thanked them for serving they would thank me for thanking them. Such humble young men and women. We as Americans are so blessed with those defending us and with the blessings that God has granted us as a Christian nation.
So if you don't know either of these two who willingly give it all for you, I would encourage you to get to know Jesus Christ first, then adopt one of our brave men and women serving in the armed forces.
Merry Christmas from Iraq and May God bless you!