Mr. Speaker, it has been said that ``never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier,'' said by Zell Miller about the American fighting men.

I rise today to honor a young American marine from my southeast Texas district, Marine Staff Sergeant Russell Slay, who valiantly served the Nation in Iraq and who died doing so. He was a member of the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Russell Slay grew up in my hometown of Humble, Texas. As a student at Humble High School, he played football and was in the band. After he graduated from Humble High School, he started working, but quickly realized that he needed something more in his life. His high school friend Jason Tucker had joined the Marine Corps, and he had made the decision to join him and fight for his country. His father, Roy, a retired Houston police officer and a long-time friend of mine, said of his son, ``Russell wanted to be somewhere that would teach and inspire him.''

During his 10-year military career, he was trained to drive armored vehicles that carried combat troops from ships to beachheads during amphibious attacks. During his first tour of Iraq in 2002, Slay took part in overtaking Baghdad. He had been in charge of a section of four armored all-terrain vehicles. He left for his second mission on September 11, 2004.

Upon receiving his orders to report for a second tour in Iraq, Staff Sergeant Slay told his family and friends that he did not think he would make it back. A year ago today, Russell Slay's perceptive premonition became a reality. He was the 100th Texas member of the Armed Forces to be killed in Iraq. And, by the way, Mr. Speaker, one out of every 10 Americans wearing the uniform today is from the State Texas. Russell Slay was 28 years old. He died in combat with seven others in Fallujah when his armored vehicle was attacked by terrorists.

His funeral was a moving memorial to him as a devoted father, son, and friend. More than 450 people paid their respects to a man that was remembered for his engaging spirit and his love of life. Family and friends expressed that Slay was nothing short of spectacular. His sense of humor was contagious. He was a loving, loyal, and dedicated father.

He left behind a 9-year-old daughter, Kinlee, and a 5-year-old son, Walker. At the funeral, Marine Captain Mike Evans read letters that Slay had prepared for his children in anticipation of his death. He told his daughter, Kinlee: ``I love you and never knew what life was before you were born. You will always be Daddy's little girl.'' He encouraged her to have the best life possible and to be sure that she went to college. He said: ``Daddy will always be with you and watching out for you. Hugs and kisses. I'll miss you.''

He also wrote to his son, Walker, and told him that watching him grow up was ``like reliving his own youth. He said: ``You're the best little man there ever was. Be a studious son and stay in school. Always be a man. If you make mistakes, stand up and say so.'' Russell Slay encouraged his son to have children of his own so he too could feel the joy and happiness that had been brought to him.

He insisted in his letter that his family know how much he loved them, and he wrote: ``I promise you my family was my last thought. Don't mourn for me, but celebrate my life.''

Nine-year-old daughter Kinlee spoke at her father's funeral, and through tears she talked about playing cars with her dad and brother and shopping at Wal-Mart. She spoke fondly about the weekend family ritual of washing the car.

Charlie Flannigan, who officiated the funeral service, told of Slay's skills in the band that he and his buddies had created in Iraq. They called it the Texas Trio. He said Russell was not the best athlete, but he sure knew how to play a guitar.

Staff Sergeant Russell Slay in 28 short years had already exhibited a lifetime of bravery and boldness. Mr. Speaker, Thomas Jefferson once said: ``From time to time the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.'' Russell Slay was a true American patriot. Russell Slay died for Americans. He died for Iraqis. He died for freedom.

Staff Sergeant Russell Slay, we will never forget the price you paid for America, and we thank you for devoting your life to your country. You are a true American hero. You make us proud.

So Semper Fi, Staff Sergeant Slay, Semper Fi.