D.C. (12/5/2012) – Six years ago, Marine Corps Maj. Megan
McClung (photo left) was in the final month of her second,
year-long deployment to Iraq when, while escorting
journalists from Newsweek into Ramadi, her Humvee struck a
massive improvised explosive device, instantly killing her
and two U.S. Army soldiers, Dec. 6, 2006.
McClung was serving as the public affairs officer for the Army's
1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in support of Operation Iraqi
She was the first female Marine Corps officer to be killed in
Iraq, and the first female graduate of the United States Naval
Academy to be killed in action since the school was founded in 1845.
It wasn't until after she was killed that her parents, Drs.
Michael and Re McClung, really began to learn about who their
daughter really was – as a woman and a Marine.
“Megan did not let Re and I know that she was planning to attend
the Naval Academy,” said Michael. “In retrospect, that was not
surprising, as she was a focused and hardworking child early in her
When Michael, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine Corps infantry
officer, found out that Megan planned to be an infantry officer in
the Marine Corps, he discussed it with her, pointing out that the
"law of the land" did not allow women in the infantry. After she
finished The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Megan
reported back to her parents that she was going to be a public
Michael thought to himself that her choice
was wonderful. Public Affairs would reward his daughter with career
opportunities when she gets out of the Corps. But that wasn't
Megan's logic in choosing the specialty.
“Megan said to me,
‘Nope. This way I can go anywhere the infantry does and I don't have
to worry about the law,'” he said.
During her second tour in
Iraq, then Capt. McClung was the embed coordinator for I Marine
Expeditionary Force. She knew everyone of importance after her first
tour and was the go-to person for news stories, said Michael.
She was committed to athletics. Megan organized the first Marine
Corps Marathon held outside of the United States. It was also the
first marathon of its type held in Iraq.
Megan completed the
race second among women – on a foot that was nearly broken.
Shortly after that, Megan was promoted to the rank of major and
jumped at the opportunity to be transferred to the U.S. Army's
“Ready First” combat brigade as their public affairs officer.
“She felt that her assignment in Fallujah was too far from the
fight and she was running toward the sounds of guns,” Michael said.
“The commanding officer, now Brig. Gen. Sean MacFarland, said that
Megan had a major impact on the moral of the soldiers and felt that
she was the best PAO in Iraq.
“I personally feel that he was
Since the loss of their daughter, Michael and
Re have been devoted to carry on their daughter's legacy, which
revolved around the three things she lived by: mind, body and
Mind. Scholarships in Megan's name at three high
schools on Whidbey Island, Wash.; Boston University Metropolitan
College, Mass.; the Naval Academy; and the Women Marines Association
honor the mind.
“When Megan left the Naval Academy, she never
thought of herself as a good student and felt she should've done
better while she was there,” said Re, a retired school
administrator. “She wanted to prove to herself that she was as
better student and that's why she went back to school and earned her
Master's degree in criminology.”
Body. While growing up,
Megan was an avid gymnast. And she loved running because it was good
for the mind and body.
“Megan wanted to recognize even the
very last person to finish the marathon,” said Re. “She called us
from Iraq and asked me to send a stuffed-toy penguin to give to the
last person who finishes. Megan believed it's not how fast you run –
it's that you finish. She believed that you never leave anyone
In 2007, the Penguin Award was presented by Michael
and Re at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., to the last
official finisher. The Penguin Award continues to be an official
award of the Marine Corps Marathon.
Megan's commitment of the
body did not stop at athletics. She was also active in the Marine
for Life and Wounded Warriors programs.
“I remember Meg
saying, ‘Mom, you have no idea how badly wounded some of these folks
are coming back from Iraq.'”
In her honor, Michael and Re
also organize and sponsor a race on Whidbey Island where all
proceeds go to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
Megan's spirit touched the lives of so many. To carry on that
spirit, Michael and Re organize an annual Toys for Tots drive which
provides more than 1,000 children on Whidbey Island with a toy for
“We have really unique opportunities to interact
with so many people about Megan,” said Michael. “It takes people a
long time to step up with their stories.”
“It's a very small
world and if you wait long enough, the pieces all start to come
together – all the stories,” said Re. “One of the nicest things that
have been said, these past six years, was said by male Marines – it
was that Megan was a Marine's Marine. That's what she would've been
most proud of.”
As a young girl, Megan collected quotes, Re
said. She'd write them on a piece of scrap paper, a napkin or
whatever she could find, and then she'd then re-write them in a
“As I read them now, I see how Megan's character
developed as she became an adult because of the things she chose to
keep with her,” she said. “When she was killed, we got her things
back and it was interesting to see, as [her] mom, what was really
important to her.
“She always said, ‘If I own it, it's got to
fit in my car because I'm going places.”
Megan's energy and
spirit continues to live on through the people who knew her, served
with her and loved her.
More photos available below
By USMC Sgt. Megan Angel
Comment on this article