Editor's note: Producer John Rutherford often covers military funerals for the Washington bureau. He filed this note in the internal NBC computer system and we were moved enough to share.
As the fighting in Iraq increases, so do the number of funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Today, two men killed in the war were buried, including a celebrated Marine Corps major known as "the lion of Fallujah."
The Marine band and a 60-member Marine honor guard escorted the casket of Marine Maj. Douglas Zembiec to his grave. Navy Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Ray Houk could be heard exhorting the huge crowd, "We are all Marines," and Zembiec's widow Pamela was clutching an American flag long after the service ended.
Zembiec, 34, was killed by small arms fire in Baghdad on May 11. He earlier received a Bronze Star with a V for valor for leading his infantry company in repeated assaults against insurgents in Fallujah in 2004. The combatants were so close they were hurling grenades at each other from 20 feet apart.
"I never felt so alive, so exhilarated, so purposeful," he told The Los Angeles Times after that battle in which two Marines died and 18 were wounded. "There is nothing equal to combat, and there is no greater honor than to lead men into combat."
Zembiec, a native of Albuquerque, N.M., was an All-America wrestler at the Naval Academy, graduating in 1995. Besides his widow, he is survived by their 1-year-old daughter.
Later, another funeral was held for Army Spc. Matthew Bolar, 24, who died May 3 of wounds received when a bomb exploded while his unit was patrolling Baghdad.
Bolar grew up in Montgomery, Ala., and graduated at the top of his high school class in 2002. He joined the Army in 2004 and was on his second tour in Iraq.
"We were worried, really worried, about the second tour," his mother, Anne, told The Montgomery Advertiser.
On the day he died, his mother had baked a batch of his favorite cookies to send him the next day. That night, two men appeared at her door to notify her of his death.
"I would have nightmares about them showing up at night," she said. "And then when Vernon [her husband] came into the bedroom and said, 'You've got to get up, it's Matthew,' I thought... 'This is my nightmare.'"
Besides his parents, Bolar is survived by a sister.
Zembiec and Bolar are the 333rd and 334th casualties of the Iraq war to be buried at Arlington.