Team GRIT Honors Doug Zembiec, the ‘Lion of Fallajuah,’ with Memorial Day “Wrestler of the Week Shirt”

At the start of the season, we planned to award a t-shirt to the Wrestler of the Week. However, this task proved extremely difficult because there were so many of our wrestlers that were “fighting like lions.” So, we changed our plans and decided to give the entire GRIT team a shirt at the end of the season.

The t-shirt we are awarding TEAM GRIT serves as a tribute to Marine Major Douglas Zembiec, a two-time high school state wrestling champion and a two time All-American at the Naval Academy. Zembiec served admirably as the commander of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. He successfully led his valiant soldiers during the first battle of Fallujah (Iraq) where he received the Silver Star for Valor (bravery), Bronze Star for Valor, and a Purple Heart for being wounded in battle. As a leader, Zembiec was loved. He was humble and quick to give credit to his men. He spoke proudly of his soldiers and frequently described their courage in battle as “fighting like lions.” As the leader of these courageous men, Zembiec, earned the nickname “The Lion of Fallujah.”

Zembiec was selected to serve in the elite and secretive paramilitary arm of the CIA. While courageously alerting his men of an impending ambush in Iraq, Zembiec was struck down. He is credited with saving twenty-five soldiers that day before being killed. Zembiec is represented by one of the 111 stars located on the CIA headquarters marble “Wall of Honor.” At the funeral, Defense Secretary Robert Gates openly wept at the loss of Zembiec during his eulogy (speech) because Zembiec symbolized the very best of America.

The shirt is deliberately gold. Gold is the color of lions and a lion exemplifies honor, pride, courage, strength, and leadership. Gold symbolizes champions. The color gold also represents passion and kindheartedness. In military families, a gold star is used to indicate the loss of a family member in combat. The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” by Robert Frost, inspired the phrase “Stay Gold.” “Stay Gold” means to stay true to yourself and your morals, to stay on the right path in life, and to stay strong in your convictions.

Marine Major Douglas Zembiec was gold. He was a compassionate leader that stood for discipline, courage, perseverance, intensity, and grit. He was, what we all strive to be. We challenge our wrestlers to stand for some of the same qualities that Zembiec stood for. Work hard to give your best in school and on the mats. Be a leader. Be humble. Be true to yourself. Be compassionate. Be loyal to your teammates. Take pride in your wrestling program and in Hempfield. “Fight Like a Lion” in all that you do and, of course, “Stay Gold.”

As we near Memorial Day (May 25th), please take a moment and think of Doug Zembiec, “The Lion of Fallujah,” and all that he represents. Feel free to wear your shirt on Memorial Day with pride and carry yourself a little taller. All of you have earned it!

– Coach Mack, Coach Bard, Coach Schopf, Coach Beckman

Article: Legendary Marine Maj. Zembiec, the ‘Lion of Fallujah,’ died in the service of the CIA

Video: Defense Secretary Gates Weeps When Discussing Zembiec 

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