Lex was a military working dog in the United States Marine Corps for almost six years. After his handler, Cpl. Dustin Lee, was killed in action in Iraq, Lex was adopted by Lee’s family. The kennels at MCLB-Albany were named for Lee in 2010. Lex died earlier this week after battling cancer.
ALBANY, Ga. — “The Emblem,” a weekly publication of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, reported Thursday that retired military working dog Lex had succumbed to cancer earlier this week.
The newspaper reported that Lex died on Sunday at Mississippi State University Animal Health Center College of Veterinary Medicine in Starkville, Miss., from an aggressive form of cancer.
Lex served in the Marines for nearly six years. He received national attention by becoming the first military working dog in the Department of Defense to be retired from active duty in the Corps and be adopted by the family of a fallen handler, Cpl. Dustin Lee.
Lee, who served as Lex’s handler, was fatally wounded in a 73 mm rocket attack in Iraq in March 2007. Witnesses to the incident have said that Lex, even though he was wounded in the attack, refused to leave the Marine’s side and eventually had to be pulled away so the medics could attend to Lee.
Rachel Lee, the handler’s mother, told The Albany Herald in a phone interview that the loss of the 11-year-old German Shepherd brought with it a lot of emotion.
“It rekindled all the memories of losing my son,” she said. “The closeness of the bond that Lex and I had, just ... I was able to look at Lex’s eyes and see Dustin (and relive) the memories of them working in Albany.”
In the days since his passing, Rachel Lee has been able to recall the memories of seeing Lex with her son, of bringing him home four years ago, getting the dog attached to the family and watching him perform the tricks her son had taught him.
In his retirement, Lex gave back to those who served by visiting wounded veterans and soldiers. Rachel Lee would take the dog on such visits on her own before becoming involved with the Paws 4 Hearts program, through which Lex was able to become certified to work in this capacity.
“The faces of wounded veterans would light up,” Rachel Lee said. “It would put a smile on their faces. They were able to look at his face and say ‘Thank you.’
“Lex touched a lot of lives.”
Lee said she could make such a claim based on her observations of Lex on their visits, during which he was known to exhibit behavior rare for an animal with his background.
“Lex’s demeanor was not that of a typical military dog,” she said. “He had a healing spirit.”
Rachel Lee even came to find out that there was someone with Paws 4 Hearts that had named a puppy after her late son.
“She connected with me, and we became friends and reached out,” she said.
At the time of his death, Dustin Lee was detached from the Marine Corps Police Department at MCLB-Albany and attached to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Following the 2007 attack, Lex underwent intensive treatment. Lee’s family appealed to military officials to adopt Lex even though he had been returned to active duty. Lex’s adoption formally went through during a nationally-televised ceremony aboard MCLB-Albany on Dec. 21, 2007.
In March 2010, the K-9 kennel on the installation was dedicated in Lee’s memory, thereafter becoming known as the Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee Kennel. The dedication ceremony was attended by the namesake’s parents, Rachel Lee and Jerome Lee, his siblings Camryn Lee and Madyson Lee, and Lex.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the Lee family for their loss,” a statement released by the Albany base on Thursday said. “Lex, a retired Marine Corps K-9, served the Marine Corps honorably from January 2002 to December 2007. Lex and Corporal Dustin Lee, Lex’s handler, had a special bond ... a unique bond shared only between a military working dog and his handler.
“They invested much time and energy keeping this base safe. They are part of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany’s history, and their memory will be immortalized for the sacrifices they paid for our freedom.”