Red Storm Battalion Army ROTC Pays Tribute to Retiring Sergeant

May 2, 2023

Messages of thanks from a grateful St. John’s University community echoed through St. Augustine Hall on April 27 as members of the Red Storm Battalion Army ROTC said farewell to Master Sergeant Justin C. Lee, who retired after more than two decades of military service.

Sgt. Lee, an instructor of Military Science, was a calming presence to cadets in their most stressful moments, said Battalion Commander Ashley Arnone, who will graduate and be commissioned into the US Army next month. Cadets respected his quiet leadership and approachable personality, Ashley said.

“He was easygoing and always managed to keep things cool at a time when we were under pressure,” Ashley said. “He convinced us to believe in ourselves and to always ask questions.”

Sgt. Lee enlisted in the Army in early 2003. He served multiple deployments, including a combined two-plus years in Iraq and another nine months in Afghanistan. Other deployments took him to Bulgaria, South Korea, the Republic of Georgia, Spain, and elsewhere.

The final two years of his military career were spent at St. John’s, training the next generation of Army leaders. It was Sgt. Lee’s first time in New York City. 

“I got along with the cadets at St. John’s as well as I got along with any of my colleagues in my career,” Sgt. Lee said. “We laughed and cried together, but the cadets always made it fun. Being here was a good way for me to leave the Army.”

Sgt. Lee won a number of prestigious Army citations during his career, including the Combat Infantryman Badge, given to those who have seen close-quarters combat; the Expert Infantryman Badge, for superior infantry skills; and the Air Assault Badge, for completion of air assault training. In addition to his deployments, he served as a member of the “Old Guard,” the Army’s oldest infantry unit and its presidential escort. 

Sgt. Lee trained more than 400 soldiers, including 42 while attached to the Red Storm Battalion. He took part in more than 200 combat patrols while in Iraq.

“He joined in 2003 when bombs were flying in Iraq,” said Major Ralph Scott, Assistant Professor of Military Science. “He said, ‘Sign me up for the front line.’ That’s all you need to know.”

Sgt. Lee credited his wife, Amber, and sons, Tristan and Gavin, for their patience during his deployments. The family is relocating to San Antonio, TX, where they are having a house built. They will never forget their time at St. John’s.

“Coming here was like a breath of fresh air for me,” Sgt. Lee said. “I was able to get the cadets to see the worthwhile things about being in the military, which was great.”