Army officer shares emotions while waiting for fallen soldier's motorcade to pass
Most of us did not know Army 1st Lt. Weston Lee, but many of us know someone just like him.
We know of his sacrifice.
Lee, a young U.S. Army officer, was killed two weeks ago after an improvised explosive device detonated during a patrol in Mosul, Iraq.
We were introduced to Weston Lee on Friday.
Some of us may have seen the emotional last trip home he took on Friday when his body was transported from Fort Benning to Blakely, Ga. If you were on U.S. 27 around lunchtime, you saw the highway lined with people and flags paying final respects to a fallen hero.
Many have seen the news coverage of his long ride home.
What we do know about Weston Lee is he’s one of those who raised a hand and volunteered to walk into the battle.
They are the best among us — the less than 1 percent willing to stand and fight the wars for the other 99 percent. We count on people like Weston Lee more than we are willing to admit.
They graduate from jump school at Fort Benning, just like Lee did. They earned the Ranger tabs, signifying they are the best of the best, just like Lee did in October 2015.
The first line of the Ranger Creed, which Lee undoubtedly learned on post at Fort Benning, states: “Recognizing that I volunteered as a ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession ...”
Lee earned his Ranger tab at the time the Army was opening the elite combat training school to women. Among those earning the tab on the same fall day Lee did was Maj. Lisa Jaster, one of the first three women to do so.
Jaster knew Lee. On her Facebook page, she posted that she had “nothing but respect” for Lee,” and she shared a story about the procession from Fort Benning to Early County.
But it was what she wrote about Lee when his death was first reported that offers some insight into a man many of us didn’t know.
“1LT Weston Lee was a friend, a true gentleman, and an American hero,” Jaster wrote. “He had a southern drawl even during movement to contact in the swamps. He adored his girlfriend and loved his country. He was a good man and will be missed. Rest in Peace.”
He adored his girlfriend and loved his country. That sounds like a good ol’ south Georgia boy, doesn’t it?
And the closer you got to Lee’s hometown on Friday, the drawl got thicker and the crowds got bigger.
Those who did know Lee have been deeply touched by his death.
While attending the University of North Georgia, Lee was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. North Georgia SAE brother Colin Marney, who will follow Lee into the Army, helped start a Go Fund Me Account to establish a scholarship in Lee’s memory.
Marney described his friend in a release put out by the university.
“Weston was just one of the most competitive people we’ve ever met, and he was just a winner all around,” Marney said. “Everything he did he did 100 percent, and we thought we’d establish something that rewarded people who followed that legacy – giving your all no matter what, like Weston did. The overwhelming success that we’ve seen with the Go Fund Me is a testament to his character and that people felt so strongly about him.”
So, we are starting to get a better picture of this man, this soldier, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in some hellhole halfway around the world.
There was rich symbolism on Friday when the plane bringing Lee back to Georgia touched down at Lawson Army Airfield, where he learned how to jump out of airplanes.
As the procession moved down U.S. 280, it was not far from the places where the Army Rangers are trained. More symbolism.
According to the Army, Lee, 25, was an infantry officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, N.C.
That’s the official line.
But he was a Georgia boy — and a damn fine one.