Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, writing for Military.com posted a piece about the life, service and death of Major Douglas A. Zembiec, who was killed in action on May 10, 2007 at the ago of 34.
Maj. Zembiec left a legacy of more than his leadership in action. He journaled his thoughts on personal responsibility and living purposefully. In his own hand he documented "Principles my father taught me." Great men and women often leave behind, in written form, the judicious thoughts that made them, perhaps, "more" than you or I," - the "pearls of wisdom" that governed their actions and propelled them into history. Whether a hero documents his/her thoughts in paper form, or not, the following gives clear evidence of why they fight.
GySgt. Oliva has given me permission to reprint his tribute here. Those of us who daily read news and blogs on the web, sometimes do not read through to the end. In this case, make sure you read down to Eric Kapitulik's eulogy of his friend, Maj. Zembiec.
Marine Corps News | May 18, 2007
U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY, ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Lion of Fallujah is at rest.
Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec, who once told reporters in the din of battle his Marines “fought like lions,” was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery May 15. A crowd of more than a thousand gathered at the U.S. Naval Academy’s chapel to honor the fallen warrior.
Zembiec was killed in action May 10, 2007. He was 34 years old.
In attendance were more than 30 of Zembiec’s Marines from his tour as E Company’s commander, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. The pallbearers were led by Sgt. Maj. William Skiles, Zembiec’s former first sergeant. Zembiec’s Marines wore dress uniforms adorned by medals marking their combat tours. They came from across the nation, from Marine bases on both coasts to bury their leader.
“There is no one better to go to war with,” Skiles once said of Zembiec.
They came to honor a man who roared life, who led them into combat in Fallujah and who climbed upon a tank to gain a greater perspective of the battlefield, all the while defying rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire smashing around him. They honored a man who considered it his greatest honor to fight in combat with his Marines.
Zembeic told Los Angeles Time reporter Tony Perry that battling insurgents was “the greatest day of my life. I never felt so alive, so exhilarated, so purposeful. There is nothing equal to combat, and there is no greater honor than to lead men into combat. Once you’ve dealt with life and death like that, it gives you a whole new perspective.”
At times during the battle, Zembiec’s Marines tossed grenades within 20 feet of insurgents.“My Marines have fought like lions and will continue to do so,” he said following the battle. “Ten million insurgents won’t even begin to fill the boots of one of my men.” Shortly before 9 a.m. and under blue skies and puffy white clouds, Zembiec’s lions brought their leader home.
A Navy-Marine honor detail carried Zembiec to hallowed and venerated halls of the maritime chapel here. It was the same chapel where he attended Catholic mass as a midshipman and the same chapel his took his bride, Pamela.
This time, the proud warrior was carried in. Marine and Navy officers gripped the rails of his flag-draped casket, silently gliding down the narrow carpeted aisle. Zembiec was placed at the front of the chapel where prayers and blessings were offered.
Navy chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Scott Radetski led the service, telling the gathering Zembiec was a “genuine patriot” and a “genuine hero.”
“You can shed a tear because he is gone or smile because he lived,” Radetski said.
Eric. L Kapitulik, Zembiec’s best friend of 17 years, offered a eulogy. He said Zembiec kept a series of journals, often scribbling notes on leadership, pearls of wisdom he collected by those he respected.
One entry, Kapitulik said, came from Col. George Bristol. It read, “Never forget those who were killed. Never let rest those who killed them.”
Kapitulik read another. “Be a man of principal. Fight for what you believe in. Keep your word. Live with integrity. Be brave. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Serve your country.
“Teach. Mentor. Give something back to society” Zembiec’s message in his journal continued. “Lead from the front. Conquer your fears. Be a good friend. Be humble and self-confident. Appreciate your friends and family. Be a leader and not a follower. Be valorous on the field of battle and tale responsibility for your actions.”
The vows of Zembiec’s life, written by his hand, according to Kapitulik, were titled, “Principles my father taught me.”
Zembiec’s lions honored him in fitting memory. They carried him from the chapel to an awaiting hearse. A miles-long procession of cars snaked their way to Arlington National Cemetery. There, among countless rows of white headstones lined on manicured green lawns, a place was prepared.
This is where the lion will rest for eternity. He would take his place in the long line of patriots who consecrated the grounds. It was a place of peace and honor for a warrior who dedicated his life to his nation’s battles.
Radetski led a brief graveside service. The sharp crack of three rifle volleys pierced the warm spring air. Solemn strains of “Taps” followed while Marines held salutes in white-gloved hands.
The following moments were hushed. Marines folded the flag that covered his casket. They gracefully, purposefully and meticulously folded the flag into a triangle.
It was offered to Pamela. With that, Zembiec was given to his nation one final time.
Zembiec, the Lion of Fallujah’s lions, was brought home by his Marines. They carried him home. He was buried in the soil of the nation he loved.
Now, among rows of white stones on green fields, the Lion is at rest.
E-mail Gunnery Sgt. Oliva at: email@example.com
[end of Military.com's post]
Cross-posted from Maggie's Notebook