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Funeral of Maj. Megan McClung, USMC

By Michael Fumento

Wreath by Maj.
McClung's grave
It's a busy time at Arlington Cemetery, not because of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan but primarily those of WWII vets. Thus while first funerals are normally at 9 am, Maj. Megan McClung's was at 8:30. This was actually quite fitting, because she was a triathlete and to go running in Iraq in summer you have to get up early even for a Marine. Unfortunately I found out only at the service that the family had requested no photos of the funeral, but I did get this shot of the wreath next to her grave. At least 200 mourners were present, mostly Marines and Navy but with a large number of civilians as well. One public affairs officer (PAO) from the Canadian military came to express the solidarity of our neighbors to the north with the PAOs of the United States. Deaths among PAOs are quite rare and remarkable, he said, and he felt obligated to attend.

You don't need photos to picture the procession of white horses drawing the open wagon carrying the flag-covered casket; the removal of the casket and placement next to the grave, the moment of silence; taps; then the three-volley salute. Then came the expert withdrawal and folding of the flag that is then handed to the parents. The parents appeared quite shaken, as you would expect after a violent and sudden death which every military parent knows may happen but can never truly be prepared for. I cannot pretend to know how they felt. But they bravely kept their composure, even as many a handkerchief dotted the crowd. They also showed their courage in what Mrs. McClung told an LA Times reporter last week. "Please don't portray this as a tragedy," she said. "It is for us, but Megan died doing what she believed in, and that's a great gift . . . . She believed in the mission there -- that the Iraqi people should have freedom."

It was strange to be greeted by two officers in my hometown whom I met in al Anbar, one on my first trip and the other -- who worked with Maj. McClung -- on my second. Strange for me to see them in Dress Blues; strange for them to see me in civilian clothes. After the ceremony I approached the casket, laid my hand on it and thanked Megan McClung for all she'd done to help me. Then I stood back and saluted.

They don't come any more Irish-looking than she was, and I had kidded her about the inherent conflict between her Celtic skin and the Iraqi sun. So I find it fitting to conclude with an Irish funeral prayer.

Maj.
McClung

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight that ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.

Semper Fidelis, Megan.

December 19, 2006 11:08 AM  ·  Iraq