Profiles of Valor: U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Douglas Zembiec

He is remembered as the "Lion of Fallujah," a leader who took many risks in order to save the lives of others. Then-Marine Capt. Douglas Zembiec, a Naval Academy graduate born in Hawaii, served with Echo Company in war-torn Fallujah, where he and his men helped quell violence that rocked the city for some time.

Feb. 7, 2010

He is remembered as the “Lion of Fallujah,” a leader who took many risks in order to save the lives of others. Then-Marine Capt. Douglas Zembiec, a Naval Academy graduate born in Hawaii, served with Echo Company in war-torn Fallujah, where he and his men helped quell violence that rocked the city for some time.

During one skirmish, Zembiec’s team was providing back-up support for another Marine patrol that had encountered heavy insurgent fire. Zembiec led his men directly into the assault, where they encountered AK-47 and RPG fire. The Marines radioed for a nearby tank to open fire, but received no response to their repeated requests for aid. Zembiec left his position on a rooftop, and ran out into the fray. Remarkably, he made it safely to the tank and directed its operators where to fire. The enemy were summarily dispatched.

Not long after that incident, Zembiec’s platoon was assaulted by insurgent fire from three sides, with only 20 feet of space between the platoon’s position and the insurgents. Zembiec was wounded by shrapnel, but continued to direct platoon fire and the evacuation of the wounded.

Zembiec, 34, was later killed in the line of duty while serving in Baghdad. He left behind his wife of two years and a one-year-old daughter. “I was with your son in Fallujah,” a Marine once told Zembiec’s father. “He was my company commander. If we had to go back in there, I would follow him with a spoon.” For his efforts in Fallujah, Zembiec was awarded the Bronze Star with combat “V” for valor.

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