Debbie Lee, mother of the first Navy SEAL killed in Ramadi, Iraq, tells Newsmax that Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was "very apologetic" when he phoned her to apologize for saying that when the Islamic State captured Ramadi it wasn't symbolic.
Lee told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV
on Wednesday that she spoke to Dempsey for about 15 minutes.
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"He was very apologetic for what he had said that was so painful, and not just to me, it was to so many," she explained.
"We had an outpouring of emails from people — parents who lost a loved one, spouses who lost a loved one, troops who were wounded there and fought there, who were also so sucker-punched that what the general had said was so hurtful to so many people," she said.
She added, however, that "it was a good conversation."
Dempsey made his comments
during a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Ash Carter last Thursday, in which he said that — while there is a humanitarian crisis in Ramadi because of the number of residents taking refuge in Baghdad — "the city itself is not symbolic in any way," primarily because it has "not been declared part of the [ISIS] caliphate or central to the future of Iraq."
Lee had sent a letter to Dempsey, asking for him to apologize for the comments because her son, Navy SEAL Marc Lee
, died in Ramadi during the Iraq War in 2006.
Before the phone conversation, Dempsey sent Lee a letter Monday
, saying that he wanted to offer an apology "if I've added to your grief."
"When I received the letter, it was a little soft on the apology and it had the word 'if' in there," Lee explained.
"I reserved judgement until I spoke with him, and I did forgive him, but I did say we will be watching," she said.
"His comment to me was that he needed to 'restructure or sharpen his language,'" and she says "that's the message I want to send to those who are speaking out about their troops — 'You best sharpen your language and make sure that you are honoring them, speaking wisely and showing them the respect that they deserve.'"
Lee said Dempsey also clarified his comments made during the press conference with Carter.
"He said that what he was trying to say is that it was not significant to ISIL, that they're just trying to take every and any territory between where they're at and Baghdad, and he did not at all mean to make it sound like it wasn't significant to us and for the loss that was there," she explained.
"I was grateful that he did step up and do the right thing, but we will be watching all of our elected officials to respect our troops," she added.
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