“Five wounded, one martyred,” was the radio report from Iraqi coalition forces who fought alongside Marine Maj. Douglas Alexander Zembiec when he fell to small arms fire in 2007.
Zembiec, nicknamed the "Lion of Fallujah" for his service in Afghanistan, earned military honors and the love of his men for service in the Marine Corps.
According to Jo Ann Zembiec, his wife, the major wanted to remain at "the tip of the spear" for as long as he could. He did, although one major aspect of his service was revealed only today in a Washington Post feature by Thomas Gibbons-Neff.
For years, it was reported that Zembiec, 34, died as an active-duty Marine during a firefight in Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad. But the Post said Zembiec died as a covert CIA operative during a "snatch and grab" mission in Baghdad.
Zembiec, whose valor atop an Abrams tank during the first battle of Fallujah earned him a Bronze Star, reportedly saved 25 men in the hours before his death. For this he was awarded the Silver Star and, unknown to all but a few, a star on the CIA's Memorial Wall in Langley, Va.
Zembiec was invested in his country's mission, as he was in his men. According to Jo Ann Zembiec, his last words to her were, "Babe, you should see what we're doing with the Iraqi people and what we're doing to help them. Things are getting better over here."
(As a postscript, follow this link to read a moving letter that Zembiec wrote to the children of a fallen Marine in 2005.)