Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family, Friends Remember Soldier; 12-Year Veteran from Keystone Heights Had Passion for Working with Dogs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family, Friends Remember Soldier; 12-Year Veteran from Keystone Heights Had Passion for Working with Dogs

Article excerpt

Byline: Dana Treen

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS | Minutes after the memorial service for Staff Sgt. Dick Alson Lee Jr. began, a setting sun dipped beneath gunmetal clouds to warm the football field where he played as a high school linebacker.

Lee, 31, a 2000 graduate of Keystone Heights High School, died April 26 from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan's Ghanzi province.

Monday, about 500 sat in the bleachers and on the field for the memorial to honor his service and pay respects to his family, including wife Katherine and young sons Joshua and David. The family had been living in Germany.

Also killed in the explosion was Staff Sgt. Brandon F. Eggleson, 29, of Fort Bragg, Ga., and Lee's bomb-detecting German shepherd, Fibi.

They died when their Humvee ran over the device.

Lee, who friends called "Opie," had been in Afghanistan 23 days and was on his deployment's first mission, an Army kennel master told the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. He had turned down promotions so he could continue to be a dog handler, according to the paper.

It was his fourth deployment in a 12-year military career.

Commitment had long been a part of who he was.

Chuck Dickinson, who coached Lee at Keystone High, said the winner of the outstanding linebacker award his senior year was reliable and determined.

"If you asked him to do something, you didn't have to worry about it getting done," he said. "Sometimes you had to slow him down. He'd go wide open all the time."

Dickinson said Lee's "4" jersey won't be retired but will be put to special use. Though details have not been worked out, the coach said the number may be selected each year to be worn by a player who exemplifies Lee's character.

"That way it is an ongoing, every year thing," he said.

Dickinson presented a jersey to Lee's family.

When he was a senior, Lee signed up for the Army. He was passionate about working with the dogs, his family told the Times-Union in late April. He was planning to make the Army a career then get a job in police work, his sister, Vanessa Compton, said then.

He was returned to Florida on Saturday. …

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