Megan Malia Leilani McClung – Major, United States Marine Corps

“Be Bold – Be Brief – Be Gone”

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
December 11, 2006

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Major Megan M. McClung, 34, of Coupeville, Washington, died December 6, 2006, while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. McClung was assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, I MEF, Camp Pendleton, California.

For further information in regard to this release the media can contact the Camp Pendleton public affairs office at (760) 725-5044.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
O.C. native dies in Iraq
The Mission Viejo graduate is the first female Marine officer killed in the war.
Courtesy of The Orange County Register

MISSION VIEJO, CALIFORNIA – Megan McClung loved running, rain, shine or heat.

Even in war, the 34-year-old USMC major with red hair and flashing brown eyes tried to maintain balance – running along the Tigris at nightfall and competing in the Marine Marathon race in October in the U.S. She competed in six Ironmans and planned to run in a marathon on Sunday in Iraq.

But her life was cut short Wednesday when a roadside bomb blew up the truck she was riding in in Ramadi, Iraq. Two other military personnel were also killed. She was the first female Marine officer to be killed in the conflict, based on Defense Department statistics, the Associated Press reported.

McClung grew up in Mission Viejo, graduated from Mission Viejo High School, and received her officer's commission from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1995. In 2004, she left active duty and went to Iraq as a private contractor for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary. She came out of the Reserves in 2006 and returned to Iraq as a Marine.

“We can't sum up her 34 years in a brief statement,” her parents, Re and Michael McClung said from their home in Coupeville, Wash. “We know she was an outstanding Marine, a good friend, beloved sister and daughter. People always told us they felt better after spending time with her.”

Since her death, friends and colleagues remembered her in blogs on the Internet calling her a great friend, an avid athlete and a patriot.

A colleague at the Public Affairs Office at MCAS Cherry Point recounted the numerous phone calls she received from across the U.S. after news of McClung's death. In her blog entry, she wrote: “We cried, we tried to comfort each other. As we talked about Megan, many times we ended up laughing as we remembered something Megan had said or done.”

A journalist who worked with her in Iraq writes she was “a sharp and talented young woman … who can never be replaced.”

Don Karpinen, a 20-year neighbor of the McClungs in Mission Viejo, knew that McClung was determined and goal-oriented even as a child and teenager. “She was witty and she stood on her own laurels,” he said. “She had her opinions and wasn't afraid to express them.”

McClung most recently served as a public affairs officer assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Her mother said her daughter always ended her briefings with “Be bold, be brief and be gone.

“Megan lived by her own words,” she said.

A memorial service will be held at the Marine Corps Memorial Chapel at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, on December 18, 2006. McClung will be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery the next day.

SAN DIEGO, December 12, 2006 – A spokeswoman for the U.S. Marine Corps has died in Iraq, becoming the first female Marine officer to be killed in the conflict.

Major Megan M. McClung, of Coupeville, Washington, died December 6, 2006, in Al Anbar province, the Department of Defense said in a news release.


McClung, 34, was a public affairs officer assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters at Camp Pendleton, California.

The exact circumstances surrounding McClung's death were not immediately released, but Camp Pendleton spokesman Navy Lieuenant Co9mmander Cliff Carnes said she was escorting media when she was killed. The journalists she was with were not seriously injured, he said.

“She was a Marine's Marine,” Carnes said. “She exemplified everything that it was to be a warrior, she was a great personality and a great friend.”

Her boss in Iraq, Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Salas, said McClung was an advocate of media coverage of military operations, and while in Iraq she managed the Marine media embed program.

Michael Fumento, a freelance reporter who has been to Iraq three times, met McClung in Baghdad last year. He described her as smart, kind, and extremely efficient.

Carnes said McClung, who was unmarried, was in the final month of a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

McClung joined the Marine Corps in May 1995 after graduating from the Naval Academy. A call to her family home in Coupeville was unanswered.

Details of McClung's burial at Arlington National Cemetery were being finalized.

December 9, 2006:

‘I don’t even know how to feel’: Captain Eric Coulson reacts to death of Marine Major Megan McClung in Ramadi, Iraq
Captain Eric Coulson, who leads an IED-hunting U.S. Army engineer company in al-Anbar, Iraq, had just heard about the death of Major Megan McClung.

Megan (Mason) McClung, 34, was a Marine public affairs officer with whom Coulson had worked occasionally over the last two months in Iraq. On December 6, 2006, she was killed in Ramadi.

“Right now I don’t even know how to feel,” Coulson said:

I met Major McClung quite by accident when I first arrived here – we sat next to each other in the Dining Facility one day and happened to start talking. With her job and my interests in writing and telling the story, there was a natural conversation that took place.

Over the last two months I would see her quite often, the rather diminutive redhead in desert MARPAT was not someone you could miss. We spoke often and I liked her.

Yesterday she was out in town with a patrol trying to get the information to help shape our story when she was killed in an enemy attack.

Respect, regret. Coulson says he now regrets that his last words with her were an argument about trying to embed a journalist with his company. Clearly, he had a lot of respect for this Marine, who risked so much and gave all.

McClung, an avid biker and runner, wrote about the October 29, 2006, marathon race (26.2 miles) run by Marines in the heat and hazards of al-Anbar to honor their fallen comrades.

McClung ran in that marathon, too. It’s our turn to honor her service and sacrifice.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Marines lose a friendly face from Whidbey Island
Highest-ranking woman to die in Iraq was public affairs officer

To journalists covering the war in Iraq, Marine Corps Major Megan Malia McClung was a professional yet friendly face, working hard as a public affairs officer to help them do their jobs.

Many of those same journalists now are writing about her after McClung, 34, who listed Coupeville on Whidbey Island as her hometown, died Wednesday in Iraq. She is apparently the highest-ranking woman of any branch of the service to die in Iraq.

Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bryan F. Salas, who helped pin on McClung's gold oak leaves when she was promoted to major in Iraq in June, said she is the only woman graduate of the Naval Academy to die in Iraq as a result of hostile action.

According to Defense Department statistics through December 2, 2006, 60 of the more than 2,900 U.S. military deaths in Iraq have been women.

She is the 146th member of the military with ties to Washington to die in Iraq.

In her job, McClung “was an advocate of media coverage of military operations,” and managed the embed program in which reporters hook up with military units, developing public affairs plans for operations, Salas wrote by e-mail from Iraq.

Her death also numbed a community of marathoners. McClung, Salas said, also found time to organize the Marine Corps Marathon in Al Asad Airbase in October. She finished second among women.

The Defense Department in disclosing McClung's death Monday said she was killed in Al Anbar province supporting combat operations. Media and other military sources say she was killed in downtown Ramadi by a roadside bomb while doing her job — escorting reporters.

She was in her last month in her Iraq deployment.

McClung's family declined to be interviewed, directing inquiries to Marine Corps officials. Funeral arrangements are incomplete but are planned for Arlington National Cemetery, Salas said from Iraq.

McClung's name has filled Google pages on the Web since her death, including notes from numerous journalists who appreciated her work.

Many cited her energy and professionalism — and remembered a personality as bright as her red hair.

The Washington Post on October 27, 2006, reported that McClung in May came up with the idea for a marathon race in Iraq to parallel the popular Marine Corps Marathon held in Washington, D.C., each fall.

The Iraq “shadow race” was dubbed the Marine Corps Marathon Forward. Participants were considered part of the U.S. marathon, their finishes added to the list of those who completed the race in the U.S.

In an online endorsement for a joint-pain product, McClung said she had trained 20 years in gymnastics and later took up the Ironman Distance Triathlon.

McClung had been serving as public affairs officer for the Army's 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. Her home unit was the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton.

McClung, who was single, graduated in 1995 from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. She had been serving in Iraq since January.

Details about her connection to Coupeville, however, were unclear Monday. Officials in the Coupeville School District found no record of her.

Although listed by the military as a member of the Marine Corps Reserve, blogs and other Web sources indicated McClung had spent some time previously in recent years as a civilian contractor in Baghdad for Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

December 18 2006:

Marine Major Megan McClung shared her passion for athletics with fellow soldiers by organizing a runner’s event, inspiring hundreds of deployed soldiers in the process.

McClung, a 34-year-old public affairs officer for the Marines who had ties to Coupeville, was killed in Iraq December 6, 2006.

The daughter of Michael and Re McClung, who live in Coupeville, Washington, Major McClung was serving with the Camp Pendleton-based I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group when she was killed by a roadside bomb in the city of Ramadi in the Anbar province.

McClung was a triathlete and an avid runner. In October, she helped organize a satellite marathon for Marines in Iraq to coincide with the Marine Corps Marathon more than 6,000 miles away in Arlington, Virginia.

That’s how she crossed paths with another Whidbey Island resident currently in Iraq.

Navy Commander Matt Simms, who is serving a tour with the Multinational Force — Iraq, Combined Intelligence Operations Center in Baghdad, said he first contacted her to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon Forward when McClung was organizing at Al Asad Air Base near the city of Baghdad in Iraq’s Anbar province.

“Her enthusiasm and energy were immediately apparent, and she sounded like a runner herself,” he said in an e-mail to The Record.

Simms said McClung had the gift to motivate others.

Once Simms and another Navy runner were confirmed for the race they started getting periodic updates from her motivating them to train.

“She was inspiring us to do hills in preparation for the difficult course the runners were going to face in the event, peppering us with race details covering everything from water stops to some pretty cool schwag,” Simms recalled.

“Then she went out of her way to help me and a number of other Baghdad runners to arrange rides on helicopter missions headed into Anbar province in time for the race start,” he said.

Simms said McClung was extremely disappointed when the Baghdad group wasn’t able to run after she learned they were stuck overnight in a lightning storm in Fallujah.

“Despite problems that would bring much grief to your average race organizer, she made it work and delivered an incredible event to the more than 100 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians serving in the Multinational Force who were able to make it there,” Simms said.

McClung took second place herself in the race with a time of three hours, 44 minutes and 10 seconds.

Even though Simms only had limited contact with McClung, he said she was one of those special people in this world.

“One who would work tirelessly for and deeply care about people she’d never met, finding ways to make their lives better — 108 runners gained a significant life experience thanks to her on that day in late October,” Simms said.

“Runners who got a much needed three- or four- or five- or maybe six-hour break from the often incredibly difficult and always challenging work they are doing every day in support of the citizens of Iraq. And the impact of her efforts went far beyond that.”

Simms said she inspired hundreds, maybe thousands, of fellow soldiers, family members and friends who heard about the race through her media work during training and the race, “and the ones who heard about it afterwards in water cooler conversations all over Iraq. And the people who found it on the Internet somewhere.”

“A few of those thought about maybe one day doing a race. And some of them started running once or twice a week to launch the training plan. She minted runners, that girl. She inspired people to do great things,” Simms said.

McClung became a commissioned officer in 1995 upon her graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. She was promoted to major in June of this year and had been in Iraq since January.

McClung has become the highest-ranking female service member to die in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003, according to, a non-profit, nonmilitary database that keeps coalition casualties statistics.

Only 68 of the 2,937 U.S. service members to die in Iraq since the invasion in 2003 have been women.

McClung also was the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, to be killed in Iraq, according to a statement by Lieuenant Colonel Bryan F. Salas, a public affairs officer with the Multi-National-Force West.

Salas, her supervisor in Iraq, said McClung was an advocate of media coverage of military operations and she managed the Marine media embed program, and worked with civilian journalists from major news outlets.

According to media reports, McClung was on her way back from safely escorting one of the embedded journalists when her truck was struck. Two other soldiers were killed with her.

Countless journalists remembered her in online blogs and editorials as one of the finest public affairs officers they dealt with in Iraq. She had high standards and was dedicated to telling the story of the war and the Americans fighting it.

Soldiers and journalists in Iraq have lost a friendly face and motivating force amidst the chaos of daily life in Iraq.

“The world was a better place with M4 in it,” Simms said.

McClung was due to come home from Iraq in one month.

McClung’s family could not be reached for comment.

McClung will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Marine Officer Who Died In Iraq Had Been Escorting Oliver North and ‘Newsweek' Journalist
18 December 2006:

Marine Major Megan McClung, a public affairs officer who became the highest-ranking woman killed in Iraq when she died two weeks ago, had been escorting Oliver North and a FOX News crew through Ramadi just moments before a roadside bomb took her life, a military spokesman said on Monday.

When the explosion occurred on December 6, 2006, McClung was in the midst of escorting a Newsweek staffer, according to Lieuetnant Colonel Bryan Salas, a public affairs officer stationed at Camp Fallujah.

“My understanding is that Newsweek was with her at the time of the explosion, in a different vehicle,” Salas said. “She had just dropped off the Fox News crew.”

A Fox News spokesperson said she could not confirm North's involvement, while Newsweek confirmed that its correspondent, Sarah Childress, was involved.

McClung, 34, had just left North, a Fox contributor, and his crew at the Ramadi Government Center following a 10-minute escorted drive from Camp Ramadi, a U.S. Army base there, Salas said. “It was her first and only escort with him,” Salas said. “He was covering the Marines in Ramadi.” Many journalists go out without any military escort, even in dangerous areas.

Salas said McClung, who has been widely praised by former embeds since her death for her efforts to help reporters and others involved in coverage of the war, offered such escorts for a wide variety of media representatives, not just the more high-profiles such as North. “It wasn't uncommon for her to escort different types of journalists,” Salas said. “She made her own decisions on who and where and when to escort.”

But several embed veterans from Military Reporters and Editors said broadcast outlets and more well-known journalists get public affairs escorts more often than others.

“Network crews usually get a higher profile treatment,” said James Crawley, a military reporter for MediaGeneral and president of MRE. “You want to send an officer of the ‘A-Team' when you have Katie Couric or a network correspondent.”

Sig Christenson, a four-time Iraq embed and past MRE president, agreed. “When a celebrity is around, you are more likely to find a public affairs officer around,” he said.

But Salas countered that notion, saying that public affairs officers are needed to escort journalists for numerous reasons. He pointed out that McClung also was escorting a Newsweek correspondent, indicating that a lesser-known journalist was given such help. “There are so many factors that determine who you escort and who you don't,” he said. “Sound and cameras require more coordination, and if you go with a smaller outlet it may be something they hadn't covered before.”

UPDATE: Michael Fumento at his blog, points out that North wrote about the Major's death in a December 8, 2006, syndicated column, not identifying her at the time as news had not yet come out. North wrote:”A proffered hot cup of coffee was gratefully accepted as the Major helped us load our backpacks, camera gear and satellite broadcast equipment aboard a dust-encrusted Humvee. Just hours later, this widely respected and much admired Marine officer and two brave U.S. Army soldiers were dead, killed by an IED — an improvised explosive device — the insidious weapon of choice for terrorists in Iraq.”

27 May 2008:

After they received the hard news of their daughter’s death in Iraq in December 2006, Mike and Re McClung cloaked themselves in solitude, declining requests for interviews. But then, Re McClung says, “we had a visitation.”

From a dream, a sense, an energy, a voice, Re heard her dead daughter clearly tell the couple to break their silence.

“She said, ‘Mom, there’s something you want to say; you better take your sound bite,’” Re McClung says of the experience.

They were not surprised. Major Megan Malia Leilani McClung stood a mere 5 feet 4 inches and weighed only 125 pounds, but her spirit was a giant and had been since childhood.

When they reached out and began to hear back, the McClungs learned that as a woman and a Marine, their daughter had touched more people in more ways than they could fathom.

Wanting to learn more, “we told people, don’t send us flowers, tell us her story,” Mike McClung says.

Eighteen months after McClung, 34, was killed by a bomb that blew up her up-armored Humvee, responses arrive every day.

Many are e-mails from strangers, like one from the veteran Marine sergeant major who wept for her. Others are almost surreal. Six people, some complete strangers, named newborn daughters Megan, promising one day to tell their girls about their namesake. Drawings from schoolchildren, quilts, photos and messages from people who met their daughter only briefly yet came away feeling valued, arrive out of the blue. Privates and generals weigh in, as do the famous and the unknown.

“She’s become,” her mom says, “bigger than life, as if her energy and spirit are in people now.”

Long before her daughter began the first of her several tours in Iraq, before she became the highest-ranking female military officer and first female Naval Academy graduate to die in Iraq, Re McClung felt something different about this conflict.

“I don’t think the typical American realizes that the face of this war has changed. This one has a woman’s face,” Re McClung says.

Despite the military prohibition against women serving in combat units, military women aren’t confined to jobs as nurses or administrative or intelligence duties behind the lines as they were in past wars. They sling rifles and drive armored trucks, guard checkpoints, fly helicopters and serve as combat medics and MPs.

As of May, nearly 100 American servicewomen were among the more than 4,000 troops killed, according to Pentagon statistics. More than 20 left behind children. More than half were younger than 25, according to Defense Department statistics.

In the McClung residence, a long “brag wall” is filled with frames of their redheaded daughter’s academic, athletic and military achievements. Her Marine officer’s sword. Her Boston University master’s degree. Her many triathlon and marathon championships. Her medals.

Thick albums are packed with photos. Megan McClung started collecting inspiring quotes on scraps of paper at age 9. One she lived by: “To do anything but your best is to waste the gift.”

Megan McClung was born in Hawaii and graduated from high school in Mission Viejo, Calif. She was precocious and a top gymnast. Once she was rejected from the boy’s weightlifting program, so she took her case to the school board and won.

The senior prom was one of her few dates. Gymnastics and homework were her routine. Her parents never suspected she wanted to attend the Naval Academy until she announced she needed them to attend a reception for appointees. She graduated from the academy in 1995.

Megan McClung wanted to fly in the Navy but learned early that she got airsick. She wanted to serve in the infantry, but frontline jobs aren’t open to women.

She found a way around as a public affairs officer and combat correspondent, telling her dad “the nicest thing about being a public affairs officer is that I can do everything the infantry guys do, but I don’t have to do the paperwork.”

The testimonials came from male Marines, whose respect was difficult for a woman to earn.

A colonel lightheartedly wrote that “he had worked for Megan” when she was a prepared and confident lieutenant.

A commanding officer said she could outshoot anyone not wearing an expert rifle or pistol badge, do dead-hang pull-ups and at the end of her very long and busy days in Iraq, earn a master’s degree.

“She could outrun all but four people in the entire camp,” her former commander said, calling her “a dear friend … a warrior – a Marine.”

If Marines didn’t know her, they knew of her.

Some young Marines newly returned from missions in the field in Iraq – tired, dirty, hungry – were turned away by the KBR contractor running the mess hall, told “no food” until they showered.

“Megan saw that and immediately took KBR to task. Those men got fed. That story about the redheaded captain went rampant, all over, because she understood what the mission was and who was important,” the troops, Re McClung says.

McClung was in the last month of her deployment when she died. She was in downtown Ramadi doing her job.

She had picked up Fox News’ Oliver North that night and was to have escorted him the next morning, but swapped with a gunnery sergeant to take a Newsweek crew. The Humvee in which she rode was behind the Newsweek crew’s when the bomb exploded.

She died quickly, a blessing in a way, her mother says.

Major Megan McClung was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on a cloudy, chilly morning on December 19, 2006. So many people are being buried in Arlington that the McClungs had to reserve a 7:30 a.m. time slot. The sun broke out during the service.

More than 700 people attended. And they remember her still.

In the last year, the shoes that her running partner in Iraq left at her grave, which cemetery rules require to be removed every month, keep reappearing.

Her headstone is engraved with her mantra, fitting perhaps for someone whose life was short but lived so well:

“Be bold, be brief, be gone.”

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  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/14/1972
  • DATE OF DEATH: 12/06/2006

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Holly, Yesterday I drove my husband to Richmond for a trial and on the way home we stopped at Quantico at the new Marine Museum (during the Viet Nam Era, we were stationed there).  We did not have our camera with us, but Cliff took the attached four photos of the Major Megan McClung memorial tree that is right out in front of the museum with his cell phone camera.  You may have much better photos, but I thought that I would share them with you in case you want them for Megan's Arlington site. Megan's tree with marker (see the last photo) is the second from the right.  The trees are magnificent. I will always be willing to step in to help with Megan's grave, or any others, whenever needed.  I just don't want to over-step any bounds. My heart is willing at all times. Thank you for ALL the remarkable gestures you so selflessly show to so many.  I will help you in any way I possibly can. Love, Gretchen Shoemaker, February 2008

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