CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Servicemembers here gathered at the Chapel of Hope Dec.12 to honor and remember fallen Marine, Maj. Megan M. McClung.
McClung, 34, was killed Dec. 6 by an improvised explosive device in downtown Ar Ramadi where she had been serving as the public affairs officer for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division since September.
The 1995 graduate of the Naval Academy was serving a one year tour in Iraq with I Marine Expeditionary Force and was scheduled to rotate back to Camp Pendleton in February.
McClung was an avid runner who could out run all but four people on the camp, said Lt. Col. Bryan F. Salas, director of public affairs for Multi National Force- West, during his speech at the memorial ceremony.
“She was an athlete, a scholar, but most of all she was a warrior,” said Salas, who met McClung as a young lieutenant at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., when she served as the Academics and Scheduling officer for the depot. “Her running ability, her athleticism, was a metaphor for everything in her life. She took it to the wall, she ran hard to the finish line, and was always a winner.”
McClung was a tri-athlete, completing six Ironman competitions that include distance running, swimming and cycling. She organized the satellite Marine Corps Marathon run in Al Asad, Iraq in October. She was the second woman to cross the finish line. She also completed her master’s degree in criminal justice while she was here.
“She did all this late into the night after completing a tremendous work load,” said Salas, 42 of Virginia Beach, Va.
“Megan was blessed with an overabundance of energy,” said Capt. Melissa Schroth, I MEF adjutant, roommate and a close friend to McClung. “Unlike us normal folks, she gained energy with every mile she ran. But it wasn't energy that drove her - it was an indomitable spirit, an inner fountain of desire to do more and be better.”
As news spread about her death, E-mails poured into the public affairs office from around the world. The correspondence revealed that many people who knew her won’t soon forget her energy and her spirit. Her friend and colleague, 2nd Lt. Jill Leyden shared the letters at the memorial.
Emily Harris, a longtime friend wrote: “I am sorry Megan is gone... Megan and I were classmates; served time together in summer school, too. What I remember most was her energy. At first I thought she might have an intravenous drip of adrenalin, and then I witnessed how she could down many six packs of diet coke in a week.
I also got a chance to spend a little time with her in Parris Island, South Carolina and Cherry Point, North Carolina.
I haven't seen or spoken to her in quite some time, but I can say that I wept when I read the initial e-mail. Her energy is so great, I can still feel it. I am so sorry she is gone from this life. The world will miss her, but you already know that.”
Nancy Corbin, a former coworker wrote: “Megan was not like any other person I'd known, funny, spontaneous, mischievous, a running-workout fool, and so good at what she did!”
Data platoon commander with 9th Communications Battalion, 1st Lt. Carla J. Jurczynski, 24, of Pattersonville, N.Y. wrote: “I was in awe of her as a person, an athlete, and as a Marine. Her extensive athletic accomplishments included the completion of 6 Ironman triathlons - a feat that I can only hope to accomplish once some day. Ever since I noticed the Ironman tattoo on her ankle, conversations turned into a game of 20 questions - I would ask and she would answer - she never hesitated to share a funny story, offer a helpful training tip or give words of encouragement.” Jurczynski is currently deployed here.
Salas offered a lasting reflection about what McClung taught him.
“In the Marine Corps we don’t grow old in the same town, with the same neighbors and friends close by. Instead, our neighbors are those Marines that serve with us, some through our entire adult life,” said Salas. “We grow old together in the Corps – watch each other’s children grow. Cherish those friendships you make with the Marines sitting next to you. They will become one of the most important things in your life.”