“The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘the LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”
My phone hits 17:00. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Though shaking, my hands begin to dial the phone number I had scribbled down a sticky note. One ring… Two rings… My heart is pounding.
“Hi Abigail! How are you?”
I couldn’t believe it. It was her and this was actually happening…
Poised and refined, though emotional and solemn, the continuous words of this Gold Star mom as we proceeded to speak left me aghast.
Marc Alan Lee was the first Navy SEAL to be killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He died during a fierce firefight with insurgents in the central Iraqi city of Ramadi. Debbie Lee is his mom.
In July of 2006, Marc wrote his last letter home. The letter reads these words – “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 may be people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion.”
In efforts to both fulfill her spiritual gift granted from God as an encourager and carry out Marc’s last request to pass on the kindness, Debbie founded America’s Mighty Warriors, a military non-profit focused on helping Gold Star families find healing, helping heroes recover from PTSD and TBI’s, and granting Marc’s wish to carry out random acts of kindness.
As I spoke with Debbie, I was amazed at her wisdom and compassion.
“There is nothing greater than sacrifice,” Debbie said. “Christ displayed it first on the cross, and our troops display it next by being so ready and so willing. It’s become a clear example of the sacrifice Christ made for us.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Debbie and I spoke for no more than 30 minutes. I asked her questions upon questions about running a non-profit and any advice she had for someone seeking a future in military and/or non-profit work. She was more than willing to help.
Beyond her kind words of advice, however, it was the words about her son, about her situation, and about the work God was doing through her to bring His name glory that me feeling both refreshed and fulfilled by the end of the conversation.
She walked me through the journey she has been on since that fateful day so many years ago. Overall, it was clear she strives to keep the presence of Marc and his personality through all of her daily activities, even joking when she hit her necklace and cut her finger. A sarcastic “well thanks, Marc” came out as she chuckled at the small knick his SEAL trident had caused.
As the first Gold Star mom to visit a combat zone, I asked about her time in Iraq and if the trip ever scared her. Her response to me?
“Not even close. I had prayed about it. I knew it was right.”
While going into a combat zone would scare most of us I’m sure, Debbie said she appreciated it. It gave her a chance to get a glimpse of what our troops endure, how they live, and how they fight. She saw it as the opportunity to relate to our troops, to relate to her own son, and how they live.
“As a believer, if something happened, I knew where I was going,” Debbie said. “Like Daniel in the lions den, I was on a mission to do what God had asked me to do no matter the outcome.”
Debbie ended up spending Christmas with a group of soldiers that trip. She said there was no greater joy than sharing the story and sacrifice of Christ with those who sacrifice so much for our freedom on one of the most beautiful days of the year.
At the end of our conversation, I asked the all encompassing question – “How are you seeking to bring good from a past hurt?”
Though I could tell the question was tender, Debbie responded by stating that when Marc died, her confidence was not in herself or her son, but in who God was.
“I did not have a choice on the news that was given to me on August 2nd,” Debbie said. “But I had choice on how I responded. Losing Marc was the toughest thing I ever faced, but I knew God would see me through. He was still the same God on August 2nd that He was on August 1st. His character had not changed.”
She realized God does not waste pain and if anything He was teaching the lesson to always trust Him, to always go to Him, and not another person. As a widow and now-grieving mother, Debbie said she began to understand the conversation between Hezekiah and God a little more. She began to talk to God like he was physically there and realized as scripture states, God had seen her tears, He’d heard her prayers, and He would answer. She knew even when she didn’t have a specific answer, she could always feel God’s presence and He would always provide.
Through her pain, it rings clear that she has remained humble and graceful in the presence of God. Debbie has undoubtedly used Marc and America’s Mighty Warriors to touch the lives of so many Gold Star families and hurting soldiers for the Gospel.
For more information on Marc and Debbie, visit americasmightywarriors.org.