The Ripple Effects of One Navy SEAL's Last Letter Home
The last time I saw Marc, I knew he wasn’t coming home. He came and stayed with me for a week. As he drove off for the last time to deploy, my oldest son and I stood on the front lawn waving goodbye, and I said, “I don’t feel good about this,” and he said, “Neither do I, Mom.”
My oldest son and I, our personalities are very similar. We’re not worriers; we’re not fretters. Even having that deep sense of ill ease, it wasn’t like every day when a black car pulled up outside, I would wonder if today was the day. I prayed for that kid more than I prayed for anything in my entire life. When I received the call to come home that night, I knew what was going to face me when I got home.
The day he died, August 2, they had been in Ramadi, Iraq. In 2006, that was where the majority of our casualties were coming from. Marc’s platoon had been in an intense firefight for two hours. In the movie American Sniper (2014), Marc is portrayed as Chris Kyle’s officer, the SEAL that is killed in combat. What that movie depicts isn’t even close to what the battle was like. Nor did they portray Marc correctly in the movie—his actions, who he was, or what he was like. Marc had a crazy sense of humor, and the portrayal showed none of that. He was very selfless.
On that day he was killed, it was 115 and 120 Fahrenheit. How you fight like that in those extreme temperatures is beyond me! Not only that, but he carried the big gun, so he carried anywhere from 150 to 180 pounds in addition to his own weight. They had been in an intense firefight for 2 hours. Put those 3 things together and none of us would survive a moment doing that, but these guys are hard-trained.
His buddy Ryan had been injured. Bullets hit Ryan’s gun and so Ryan had severe shrapnel injuries to the head. They could tell by looking at him it didn’t look good. As soon as he dropped to the ground, the other two SEALs dropped to their knees. Marc’s choice was to stand up in the line of fire, hoping the enemy would fire on him. He knew he had the big gun, he knew he could lay down some suppressive fire, and they needed the medic up there to tend to Ryan, so without hesitation, he stood up in the line of fire, right where Ryan had just got shot.
They were able to get the medic up to the roof, and he took one look at Ryan and said, “We got to get him out of here immediately or there’s no chance for survival.” So for a second time, by himself again, Marc stood up in the line of fire, hoping he could put up cover so that they could all get down off the roof. They successfully got off the roofs sent Ryan off. for medical attention and climbed into their bradleys and headed back to that base that was named Camp Marc Lee in Marc's memory.
I remember Chris Kyle telling me later that they were sure Ryan wouldn’t be able to survive his njuries. In fact, they thought that he’d probably already passed. They didn’t have official word yet, but that’s what their thoughts were.
They ripped off their gear and got water to refresh themselves when the Chief came in and told them they had just found 30 insurgents that had just attacked them. Without hesitation, Marc looked at his Chief and said, “Roger that. Let’s go get ‘em.”
I’ve been there. The other side of their base is a big Marine base. They could’ve said, “Go get some Marines that are fresh and that haven’t been in battle.” But that’s not who these guys are.
So they climbed in their Bradleys and headed back to that godforsaken place. After clearing several houses, they went into the last house Marc would be in.
They cleared the bottom of the house, then they heard Marc yell, “On me.” He was telling the guys that he had the lead on this and that others were to follow. And as they went up the steps, they drew fire through a window, and for the last and final time, Marc stood in the line of fire. He could have ducked below the wall. Half of his platoon would have been killed, but he made the choice to stand up and give the gift of life to his teammate.
My son wrote an amazing letter about two and a half weeks before he was killed. (He was the first Navy Seal that was killed in Iraq.)
There were probably 10 people on the email thread. It was not intended to be his last letter home. It wasn’t a “if you’re reading this I’m gone” letter. But that would end up being the last letter we received from him.
I talked to him on the phone in between that. And I messaged him the day before he died, but this would be the last letter that we would receive from him.
Glory is something that some men chase and others find themselves stumbling upon, not expecting it to find them. Either way it is a noble gesture that one finds bestowed upon them. My question is when does glory fade away and become a wrongful crusade, or an unjustified means by which consumes one completely?
I have seen war. I have seen death, the sorrow that encompasses your entire being as a man breathes his last. I can only pray and hope that none of you will ever have to experience some of these things I have seen and felt here.
I have felt fear and have felt adrenaline pump through my veins making me seem invincible. I will be honest and say that some of the things I have seen here are unjustified and uncalled for. However for the most part we are helping this country. It will take more years than most expect, but we will get Iraq to stand on its own feet.
Most of what I have seen here I will never really mention or speak of, only due to the nature of those involved. I have seen a man give his food to a hungry child and family. Today I saw a hospital that most of us would refuse to receive treatment from. The filth and smell would allow most of us to not be able to stand to enter, let alone get medicine from. However you will be relieved to know that coalition forces have started to provide security for and supply medicine and equipment to help aid in the cause.
I have seen amazing things happen here; however I have seen the sad part of war too. I have seen the morals of a man who cares nothing of human life…I have seen hate towards a nation’s people who has never committed a wrong, except being born of a third world, ill educated and ignorant to western civilization. It is not everybody who feels this way only a select few but it brings questions to mind. Is it ok for one to consider themselves superior to another race?
Surprising we are not a stranger to this sort of attitude. Meaning that in our own country we discriminate against someone for what nationality they are, their education level, their social status. We distinguish our role models as multimillion dollar sports heroes or talented actors and actress who complain about not getting millions of dollars more then they are currently getting paid.
Our country is a great country, don’t get me wrong on this, otherwise none of us would be living there. My point of this is how can we come over here and help a less than fortunate country without holding contempt or hate towards them if we can’t do it in our country. I try to do my part over here, but the truth is over there, United States, I do nothing but take.
Ask yourself when was the last time you donated clothes that you hadn’t worn out. When was the last time you paid for a random stranger’s cup of coffee, meal or maybe even a tank of gas? When was the last time you helped a person with the groceries into or out of their car?
Think to yourself and wonder what it would feel like if when the bill for the meal came and you were told it was already paid for.
More random acts of kindness like this would change our country and our reputation as a country.
It is not unknown to most of us that the rest of the world looks at us with doubt towards our humanity and morals.
I am not here to preach or to say look at me, because I am just as at fault as the next person. I find that being here makes me realize the great country we have and the obligation we have to keep it that way.
The 4th has just come and gone and I received many emails thanking me for helping keep America great and free. I take no credit for the career path I have chosen; I can only give it to those of you who are reading this, because each one of you has contributed to me and who I am.
However what I do over here is only a small percent of what keeps our country great. I think the truth to our greatness is each other. Purity, morals and kindness, passed down to each generation through example. So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they are people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion.
This is our real part to keep America free! HAPPY 4th Love Ya
P.S. Half way through the deployment can’t wait to see all of your faces
That letter is so inspirational and the wisdom from that young man who was 28 when he died is unbelievable. Several weeks after he died, I picked this last letter from him up again, and now it really meant something. It was almost prophetic, the way he ended that letter.
Here you see the contrast between one of the toughest warriors that we have in America, and one of the most compassionate guys encouraging people to do random acts of kindness and pass on the kindness, love, and the precious gift of human life.
I was a single mom most of my children’s life, and at the age of 23, I went through a divorce after their Father tried to kill me. My oldest was 3 at the time, my daughter was 18 months, and 2 weeks later I found out I was pregnant with Marc.
I could hardly feed the two kids I had. But now I see what a gift Marc was. And not that I didn’t know that my kids were gifts back then, but sometimes you don’t realize how special those gifts are. Today, 12 years later after Marc’s death, he is still making an impact around the world. Every day someone reaches out and tells me how they were inspired by him, and that wouldn’t have happened if Marc were still here. Would I selfishly rather have him here? Of course I would, but to know that the world is being changed in such a major way by how he lived his life, how he gave his life...
He was a believer. I know where he is. He was redeployed to heaven and I will see him again one day. Seven weeks after Marc died, Mikey Monsoor died. He fell on a grenade, and He was one of his teammates in a sister platoon. That letter from Marc inspired me then, and I knew I needed to be there for his family. I didn’t have another Gold Star mother to walk alongside me through the grief and tell me the things I needed to hear. So I knew I wanted to be there for Mikey’s mother, though I didn’t know what I was going to do.
At the hotel, the Commander of the SEALs came up to me and said, “I want you to go in the vehicle with the family.”
At first I said, “No, no. This is not about me. This is not about Marc. This is about Mikey and his family.”
The Commander said, “No, we want you to support that family. Get in that vehicle.”
“Oh, ok. Well that makes sense to me. That is kind of why I am here.”
One thing would lead to another, and I could see this was how God was orchestrating my life—to help others who had lost someone or who were otherwise affected by the war. I did it out of my own pocket for two years and then officially started the Mighty Warriors of America foundation in 2008.
One of our programs is the Heroes Hope Home, and it’s a place where Gold Star families can come stay free for a week. When they get here, there’s gift baskets and chocolates and flowers and balloons. They can also redeem gift cards for manicures, pedicures, massages, meals, sporting events, and we just love and pamper them. The theme that I’ve heard while working with these families for 12 years is that they don’t want their hero to be forgotten, and this is one way that we can let them know that we won't forget their fallen hero and we won't forget them.
Our foundation hosts retreats in Texas for our Gold Star families and for our Purple Heart recipients and their families. We have a program called “Helping Heroes Heal” and we pay for Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and hormone and vitamin therapy for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. These treatments are healing the brain, not just masking the symptoms.
We also do a lot of advocacy and education, if there’s an injustice against the troops, we step in and make it right. One story that comes to mind: About 9 years ago, Delta airlines was charging our troops for excess baggage, bringing their gear back! And when I found out about that, I called Delta and said, “Is this correct?”
They told me it was their policy.
“You do understand that’s our troops bringing their combat gear back.”
And for some of our newly enlisted, what they paid in baggage fees was their food for the month. They wouldn’t be able to feed their families for the month. So I said, “I have a pretty big following, if you won’t refund that money to them, I’ll send your address and phone number and the details of this story, and that I spoke with you and that you said you wouldn’t refund their money.”
Delta was bombarded with email and phone calls and within 48 hours, Delta was refunding all the money to our veterans.
We also do random acts of kindness in response to Marc's request in his last letter home. We buy coffee, meals, tanks of gas for our Gold Star families and troops. That’s also one of the ways I found I cope on Marc’s birthday and the anniversary of his death. I go to a base and I stand in line and I buy meals, gas, and I say, “Here’s why I’m doing this…” They’ll say, “You don’t have to do that.” And I tell them that my son challenged me to do this, and that I’m honoring him through my deeds.
We have developed the program and provide up to a $5,000 grant, and while a veteran can’t ask directly, if someone knows of one who needs help there can reach out on their behalf. We can get that out to them pretty quickly. I heard of veteran families who have needed help, but the red tape through other agencies or foundation has been a lot. Requests are submitted to our Board, voted on and a check immediately issued.
America's Mighty Warriors also prepares and ships care packages and Christmas stockings to our SEAL teams. There’re all kinds of stuff in the stockings. We do a packing party and people donate, jerky, protein bars, candy, shampoos, conditioners, magazines, and Christmas cards. We had a school that contributed cards from their students. I've hand delivered these on my trips to Iraq during Christmas, and our troops love the ones that the kids contribute.
The week Marc died, his buddies started calling me “MommaLee” and that is the relationship I have with them. Those are my boys. That’s my family. They call me MommaLee to this day. We stay in touch. It’s a bond. Marc tried to explain that to me, but I didn’t get it before, but afterwards I did. I started to realize the relationship that I have with so many of these boys is that mother-son relationship.
We do a lot with our Veterans who are suicidal. My husband committed suicide 24 years ago and once they find that out, they pour their hearts out to me. Before it would be like, “Do you have any idea what I’m going through?” And then I’d feel the walls come down after they find out about my experiences.
It was healing to them, too, to have someone to talk to about things they might not be comfortable sharing with their own mother. They wouldn’t want to freak them out. But I also don’t baby them. When they come to me and say, “I don’t want to live anymore, I'm done. My mom would be better off without me.” I say, “Don’t you ever say that.” I give them a little kick in the pants. And I say, “Dude, when you were in the combat zone, did you one day say, ‘I’m not going to take my gun today, or I’m not going to wear my body armor today. I’m just going to leave it behind.’ No! You went out, prepared for battle. It’s a different battle back home, but you still must be prepared for battle. Get up, put your armor on, grab your weapon, figuratively, and get out of the pity party. It’s in your head! This is what overrules your emotions and feelings.”
I found I had an amazing connection with these veterans, but I never thought I would run a non-profit, be a public speaker or regularly conduct interviews on Tv and radio. I had a preschool and kindergarten for 15 years. I used to be terrified to get up and speak in front of people. Something changed when I spoke at Marc’s funeral.
Everyone that writes to us for the first time, we send them a copy of Marc’s letter so they can be as touched and inspired as I was.
(Note: To learn more about the work that Mighty Warriors of America is doing for veterans and Gold Star families, visit their website: )