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UNG mourns 2014 graduate who died in Iraq
Weston Lee
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee was remembered at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus Monday as a student, cadet, rugby player and student bookstore employee who had a positive attitude and inspired others.

Lee, a 2014 UNG graduate, was killed Saturday in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated during a patrol outside Mosul, according to a statement released by Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, public affairs officer for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. Lee, of Bluffton, was a paratrooper and infantry officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. He was deployed to Iraq in December, and this was his first deployment.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 (Ret.) Benny Lee Wyrick, operations coordinator for the UNG Corps of Cadets, said he learned of Lee’s death Sunday morning.

“No one likes to hear the death of a friend,” Wyrick said. “When you get those things, you’re immediately saddened and hurt.”

“He was very enthusiastic as a cadet, a very enthusiastic individual, easily liked and friendly,” Wyrick added. “He could inspire others to look at situations differently. He always accepted a challenge. He was the type of individual who could take feedback and critique and turn it back into positive action.”

Laurie Davis, manager of the UNG Bookstore on the Dahlonega campus, called Lee “a very genuine person.”

“You knew you could trust him that he would do what he said he would do,” Davis said. “One thing that really came across was his love for his country, love for God and for family. It showed in everything he did. I was amazed at his insight. He was wise beyond his years.”

Rafael Hernandez, a senior at UNG, worked with Lee in the bookstore and was a teammate with him for a semester in the rugby club.

“He was always happy,” Hernandez said. “He was pretty caring about how the other person was feeling. He was someone you would look up to. I think the only thing he really feared was God himself.”

Hernandez called Lee a “good teammate” and “a force to be reckoned with” in rugby.

Annie Barnaby, another bookstore employee, remembered Lee as “a great student worker.”

“He got along well with the other student workers, with the customers, just a great employee from the bookstore standpoint,” Barnaby said.

Judy Dills, who also worked with Lee in the store, said he was committed to his education and his involvement with the UNG Corps of Cadets.

“He was just really devoted himself to the military part of his education here,” Dills said. “He loved it. You could tell he loved it when he talked about it. I’m really saddened by this.”

Lee earned a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice at UNG and was commissioned as a U.S. Army infantry officer from UNG in December 2014, according to a university statement provided by spokeswoman Sylvia Carson.

“Lt. Lee made the ultimate sacrifice in service to his country, and our hearts and thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time,” the release stated.

Lee joined the Army in March 2015. His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, and the Army Service Ribbon.  He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.

“1st Lieutenant Wes Lee was an extraordinary young man and officer,” said Col. Pat Work, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team. “He was exactly the type of leader that our paratroopers deserve. Our sincere condolences and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”