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Tribute to Our Military Veterans

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. I thank the gentleman from Ohio for his leadership in these early stages of his first tour in Congress. I know he is proud of his military background, and I know he is proud of our Nation's veterans. I am proud of my own service, and I am proud of our veterans as well, the veterans of Indiana's Ninth Congressional District, those veterans I served with.

And I would like to just highlight today one veteran who inspires me as I reflect upon his life, one veteran that I had the opportunity to get to know when I was at the United States Naval Academy. He is a fellow marine. And Veterans Day, you will recall, is a day of celebration. November 11 is a time we celebrate not only those living, but also those who have worn the uniform and died in the course of service.

So today, I would like to talk about my classmate, the class of 1995 at Annapolis, Doug Zembiec. Maybe some of you have heard of Doug. He is a man of quite a reputation. He was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the Naval Academy. He was a leader. He had an amazing presence. Even among his fellow athletes who spent a lot of their hours preparing for the next match, the next game, he stood out. He worked especially hard, always went above and beyond. Because of his tireless work ethic, because of his infectious personality and a certain X factor about him, Doug just earned all sorts of friends. And he earned the respect of people in an atmosphere at a service academy where leaders and aspiring leaders are competing for the respect of their peers, and that really says something.

On May 31, 1995, Doug and I were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps, at which point our careers took separate paths. After initial training at The Basic School in Quantico, Doug joined a Force Reconnaissance platoon. It was among the toughest of the United States Marines. We like to think we are all tough, but we can certainly agree that Force Recon marines have earned the respect of their fellow marines and fellow Americans.

He was among the first to enter Kosova in 1999 with his first unit, and 5 years later, he found himself in command of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. During Operation Vigilant Resolve in 2004, Doug led his rifle company of 168 marines and sailors in the first ground assault into Fallujah. His remarkable leadership earned him a number of decorations. These things weren't important to Doug, but it is important that our country recognize our fearless leaders like him. We awarded him a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts for the wounds he suffered in the course of the Battle of Fallujah. His men were so impressed by the bravery and the principled leadership that Doug exhibited that they named him the ``Lion of Fallujah.'' The Lion of Fallujah would serve four combat tours in Iraq.

In his final tour, on May 11, 2007, Doug was killed by small arms fire. He was always thinking of others first. Doug warned the Iraqi forces that he helped train to get down, but Doug himself did not make it.

A mutual friend of ours and fellow Naval Academy classmate, Eric Kapitulik, who was very close to Doug, he delivered a moving eulogy at Doug's funeral at the Naval Academy chapel. He read some words that were written by Doug himself in the closing of that eulogy, entitled, ``Principles My Father Taught Me,'' and here they are:

Be a man of principle. 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. Lead from the front. Conquer your fears. Be a good friend. Be humble and be self-confident. Appreciate your friends and family. Be a leader and not a follower. Be valorous on the field of battle. And take responsibility for your actions. Never forget those that were killed, and never let rest those that killed them.

That is Doug Zembiec. May God continue to bless Doug Zembiec and his wife and beautiful child he left behind. May God continue to bless our Nation's veterans, and may God continue to bless this great Nation, the greatest Nation on Earth, America.


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