Friday October 17, 2003 - News
Former Salidan recounts tearing down
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Leon Lambert said the people in the
picture with him are the reason he’s looking forward to
retiring from the Marine Corps in three and a half years.
‘I’ve spent enough time away from my family. I want to see my
daughter and son grow up,’ he said. Sheridon, 4, is happy to
have her daddy home and Leon was happy to get back to the
United States 19 days before his new son, William Gunner, was
born July 2.
by Michael D. Reed
Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt. Leon Lambert
returned to the U.S from Iraq June 13, just in time for the July 2
birth of his son, William Gunner Lambert.
Lambert, a 1986
graduate Salida High School graduate and long-time Salida resident,
signed into the military soon after graduation.
He left the
United States Jan. 27 and spent four months and 16 days in the
Middle East where he was responsible for the April 9 felling of the
statue of Saddam Hussein in Ferdoos Square.
magazine featured a picture of Lambert and Cpl. Edward Chin
preparing to topple the statue in its September issue.
(his wife) bought about a dozen copies of (the magazine) when she
found out I was in it. She’s funny,” Lambert said.
He was allowed
to return home ahead of the rest of Bravo Company First Tank
Battalion which arrived in Twentynine Palms, Calif. July
Young William was named for Lambert’s father, Bill, who died
Oct. 2, 2002.
Lambert was nominated for the bronze star for
actions in combat when his unit was ambushed.
He told The
Mountain Mail the bronze star has been changed to a Navy and Mar-ine
Corps Accommodation medal.
He will also receive the Purple Heart
for injuries sustained from an Iraqi missile.
He will be reviewed
for a promotion to First Sergeant (E-8) Oct. 20 and will transfer to
Yakama, Wash., where he will take over as the new maintenance chief
for Bravo Company fourth tank battalion reserve.
enough time away from my family in the past 16 years. I want to
watch my son and daughter grow up,” he said.
“I’m going to retire
in three and a half years and we’re thinking of moving to my dad’s
ranch near Moffat. The whole thing is still up in the air, but I’d
like to go back to Colorado,” he said.
Lambert continues to care
for his father’s horses which were relocated to Twentynine Palms,
Calif., after his father died.
Lambert told The Mountain Mail the
story of the now famous events in Ferdoos Square in Baghdad,
“We fought every day from March 19 until April 9 when we
rolled into Baghdad. We were the first Marine Corps unit in Baghdad
and we didn’t meet any resistance there.
“I radioed my executive
officer and said, ‘We got this statue here. Can we knock it down?’
He called back and said, ‘No, Gunny. That’s not what we’re here
“An Iraqi citizen with broken English asked me if we could
loan them equipment so they could knock it down themselves. I got
authorization, and gave them a long rope and a sledge hammer. They
worked at it for a couple of hours.
“There was quite a group of
Iraqis – about 500, I’d guess – spitting at it and hitting it with
the soles of their shoes – which is very disrespectful (in their
“I feel like we gave the Iraqi people their first taste
of freedom in 30 years since Saddam took over. They were not allowed
to express themselves like that under Saddam’s regime.
commander, Capt. Louis, told me, ‘be prepared to help them take that
statue down.’ A little later he told me to drive my M-88 Hercules
tank retriever into the square.
“I was told ‘Do what you need to
do, but not without the battalion commander’s signal.’
“We had an
American flag with us. It was flown at the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001.
“When we put that flag up we were not saying ‘We conquered this
nation.’ I think what we were saying was ‘This is what happens when
you mess with the United States. We’re here to take down Saddam’s
“The Iraqi people were jubilant when we brought out that
flag. They were cheering us. They wanted us to put our flag up there
– to put it on Saddam’s head.
“Cpl. Chin is my rigger and I told
him to rig a chain around the statue’s neck and put the flag up. I
chose him because he’s from New York.
“That’s when the picture in
National Geographic was taken. I was actually yelling at all the
photographers and reporters to get off my M-88. It was crazy. They
were climbing on top of my tank.
“My Battalion Sgt. Maj. ordered
us to take the American flag down. I think he didn’t want to send
the message that we were there to conquer the nation. That’s not why
we were there.
“The Iraqi citizens booed when we took it down.
They wanted it to stay up there. Then a man brought us a pre-Gulf
War Iraqi flag. Saddam changed their flag in 1991 after the Gulf
“With the old Iraqi flag over the statue, Lt. Col. McCoy
gave me the order to bring it down so we brought it part-way down
and stopped to make sure there were no civilians in the
“When we got it all the way down the reaction of the Iraqi
people – I honestly don’t think there are words to describe
“I’m just proud to be part of that moment.”
he brought four pieces of the massive bronze statue to Twentynine
Palms, Calif., and will have some of the pieces cut, and possibly
inscribed, to give as gifts to the Marines who were with him when
they made history in Baghdad.
Back paddle —
boathouse not up for sale
Photo by Denise Ronald
Sale of the FIBArk
boat house is delayed after a quit claim deed was filed and
‘clouded’ the title to the building
by Kristen M. White
Sale of the FIBArk boat-house is on hold
because of complications with the building’s title according to the
FIBArk board of directors.
Ray Kitson was scheduled to complete
purchase of the building Wednesday, but re-ported “ambiguities and
challenges to the title of the building” forced postponement.
past weeks, the FIBArk board entered into professional mediation
with people opposed to the sale of the building.
Members of the
newly formed FIBArk Boathouse Preservation Trust filed a quit-claim
deed earlier this month, transferring ownership of the boathouse to
the non-profit group. The deed clouded the title, making closure of
the sale more difficult.
In addition, Salida businessman Denny
Lee reportedly offered to purchase the building.
speaking for the FIBArk board, said board members will “proceed with
the necessary legal work to secure clear title to the building. The
board has been counseled that this process could take upwards of a
Meanwhile, all offers re-garding the sale or long term
lease of the building have been suspended.
The FIBArk board
reportedly agreed to continue to lease the building to Ray Kitson
for two years.
“Once title work has been legally cleared up, the
board will revisit its options regarding the future of the
building,” Hart said.
Bush policy won’t
affect Chaffee County wilderness study areas
by Michael D. Reed
Wilderness study areas in Chaffee County
will not be affected by a recent Bush administration policy
restricting the right of the Bureau of Land Management to designate
Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt filed suit in April
challenging the bureau right to designate land as wilderness or
wilderness study areas after Oct. 21, 1993.
were sent to state BLM offices Sept. 29 after Leavitt and Interior
Secretary Gale Norton reached agreement about the issue.
requests for federal protection filed after Oct. 21, 1993, are
rescinded and bur-eau officials must reevaluate the protection
designation to be applied, according to appro-priate
Although some wilderness advocates claim the new
policy will leave vast tracts of previously protected land without
protection against development, bureau officials disagree.
can still protect land, but we must use different designations which
are managed under different guidelines,” Ken Smith, BLM public
affairs officer, said.
All land designated before Oct. 21, 1993 –
about 22 million acres – will maintain its designation until
Congress makes a decision about BLM recommendations of
Congress has no time rest-riction regarding when the
decision must be made. Land is managed according to interim
wilderness management guidelines until Congress rules.
decision is made, it can maintain the wilderness designation or
release land from protection and restore it to multiple
“This settlement has nothing to do with this area. Locally,
this policy has no impact at all. It will not affect anything in
Chaffee County,” Smith said.
“All land protected by this (Cañon
City) office of the BLM is wilderness study area. There are no
wilderness areas,” he said.
“We did not propose any land for
federal protection after Oct. 21, 1993, so none of our protected
land is add-ressed by this policy,” he said.
The bureau office in
Cañon City manages land in Fremont, Chaffee, Teller, Park, Lake,
Custer and Huerfano counties, he said.
Rep. Diana DeGette
(D-Colo.), introduced legislation in May to preserve 1.6 million
acres. About 600,000 acres of her proposal will be affected by the
She called the policy “a crime.”
groups earlier identified 3 million acres in Utah they believed
should be considered for wilderness designation that can no longer
Matt Baker, executive director of Environment
Colorado, said, “The administration has, in effect, ruled the
primary purpose of public land is to provide energy at the expense
of everything else.”
Wilderness or wilderness study area
designations prohibit motorized and mechanized traffic according to
the 1964 Wilderness Act.
Motorized recreation enthusiasts argue
the interim wilderness management guide-lines are too
Smith said federal protection allows hunting,
grazing, hiking, camping and other outdoor activities not involving