Maj. Megan McClung Memorial Race Ran In Afghanistan
(August 18, 2010)
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — United States service
members, British troops and civilians at Camp Leatherneck,
Afghanistan ran a 5k race in memory of Maj. Megan M.
McClung, Aug. 14.
More than 425 runners participated in the first ever
satellite running of the event in Afghanistan.
"My inspiration to have this race came to me during
one of my morning runs," said Maj. William Conner,
race coordinator. "I think it's important to honor
those who gave the ultimate sacrifice."
McClung, who served as a public affairs officer with
I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD), was 34 years old
when she was killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi,
Iraq, Dec. 6, 2006. She was the first female Marine
officer to be killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Runners take off at the start of the Maj. Megan McClung memorial race at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Aug. 14,
2010. This was the first time the race has been held in Afghanistan.
The 1995 Naval Academy graduate was known to her friends as
an avid runner and six-time Ironman competitor. In October
2006, McClung organized and ran in the Marine Corps
Marathon's satellite race in Iraq's Camp Al Asad. One year
after her death, the casualty assistance officer for the
McClung family spearheaded the first Maj. Megan McClung
Memorial Race at Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Wash.
McClung's father, Dr. Mike McClung and her mother, Dr. Re
McClung, continued the event to honor their daughter and
raise funds for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
"What we get to do with this race is keep her memory alive,"
Re McClung said. "We're carrying out the things she wanted
to do, which was contribute to the health and welfare of her
Conner, McClung's Naval Academy classmate, contacted her
parents in early August to ask if they would be interested
in having a shadow race in Afghanistan. The race would be
held on the same day as the race on Whidbey Island.
"Our operational tempo is very high right now, and we're all
very busy," Conner said. "But there's always time to honor
one of our fallen comrades, in my case a friend. Megan gave
her all to the Marine Corps and to her country. It's
important for us to remember her."
McClung's parents gave Conner permission to organize a
shadow race in Afghanistan. He had two weeks to coordinate
and advertise it. The response was overwhelming.
"When Maj. Conner told me he wanted to do this I was
thinking he might get 40 to 50 people," Mike McClung said.
"When he told me he passed 300 and was on his way to 400 I
asked him if he was going to have enough Marines left to
guard the perimeters."
In a befitting tribute to a fallen Marine, the same unit
McClung deployed with to Iraq in 2006, sponsored the first
memorial race in Afghanistan. Several Marines who were
privileged to serve with McClung ran the race in honor of
their fallen comrade.
Sgt. Maj. Walter O'Connell, sergeant major, I Marine
Headquarters Group, I MEF (FWD), met McClung prior to their
deployment to Iraq. He remembers her as a fast and quick
athlete as well as a Marine dedicated to her mission.
"I never forget the Marines that go before us and made the
ultimate sacrifice, and Maj. McClung is one I'll never
forget," said O'Connell, who also ran in the race. "The
turnout was exceptional. It just goes to show that Marines
are thinking of each other."
It wasn't just the race that carried McClung's memory. Even
her sense of rewarding true effort was carried forward for
When Maj. McClung organized the Marine Corps Marathon (FWD)
in Iraq in 2006, she asked her parents to send her a stuffed
penguin toy. She had read a book by John Bingham, who called
himself the penguin because he loves to run, but takes it
"He never wins, but he just loves to run," Re McClung said.
"And so Megan always believed that it doesn't matter how
long it takes to run the race, what's important is that you
finish the race."
The McClungs mailed the penguin out to their daughter who
then awarded it to the last marathon runner to cross the
finish line. In the years following their daughter's death,
the McClungs have been invited to the Marine Corps Marathon
to award a penguin to the last runner. Mike McClung decided
to send a gift to the final runner in Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Gina Sandwith was the recipient of the Cpl. Stan
Dillo award for her perseverance and crossing the finish
"We decided you needed something armored," Mike McClung
said. "That's why Stan the armored-dillo is on its way."
First Lt. Adam Crandall, I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)
came in first with a time of 16:28 and had enough energy to
run the course again. The first female to cross the finish
line was 1st Lt. Angelica Valdez, 3rd Marine Air Wing, with
a time of 20:00.
The McClung family expressed their appreciation for those
who ran and volunteered for the event. They said their
daughter would be thrilled to know that she is loved and
remembered by her fellow Marines while the mission continues
"We think they're phenomenal," said Re McClung about the
runners. "We know about the long days they put in and the
mission there, and how tough it is. For them to come out and
be willing to run and think about our daughter while they're
doing it is just phenomenal."
Article and photo by Sgt. Heidi Agostini, I MEF
See video about Maj. Megan McClung
Marine Corps News
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