I’m a Marine Corps veteran and over the years, I’ve been involved with several veteran organizations. As a proud member of Team Rubicon, I have the pleasure of working daily with veterans, first responders, and civilians whose desire to continue serving their country, and their local communities, overshadows many other aspects of their lives.
Team Rubicon currently has a team providing disaster relief in Oklahoma, which was affected by recent tornado activity. Instead of being home with families and friends on this holiday weekend, they’re giving their time and efforts alongside their brothers and sisters to be there for those who need help. They go above and beyond to continue to serve, even though they may have hung up their uniforms long ago.
On this Memorial Day weekend, they’re honoring fellow service members who have fallen through their continued service.
I would like to honor a few veterans, men and women who are no longer with us, and how their service affected me, and, can affect and continue to inspire us all. How they lived their lives should inspire us to serve as well.
I remember Mike Spann. Mike and I served together early in our Marine Corps careers while stationed in Quantico, Virginia. It was evident even then, as brand new Marine officers, that Mike had a warrior mind and a compassionate heart. He had a great career in the Marines as an Artillery Officer, serving for six years. His love of this nation and a drive for justice and freedom for all was always worn on his sleeve. This led him to continue his service to this country after leaving the Marine Corps. He joined the CIA in 1999, earning a spot with their elite Special Activities Division.
Shortly after the terrorists struck our nation on September 11, 2001, Mike was one of the first six Americans sent to Afghanistan to link up with the Northern Alliance. His job was to forge a partnership that would lead to a quick and decisive victory over the Taliban. Mike was serving as a paramilitary operations officer for the CIA when he was killed on November 25, 2001 during a Taliban prisoner uprising. He was the first American killed in combat during the Global War on Terror.
I remember Major Megan McClung. When I first met Megan, she was a bright-eyed, young Second Lieutenant eager to get going on her career. Over the years when we’d speak, she wouldn’t brag that she was a physical dynamo, competing in numerous triathalons and marathons, but rather, she would often speak of her pride in the Corps, and of coming from a long line of service members in her family and her continued service. Her father was a Marine Corps infantry officer in Vietnam, one grandfather saw service in the Army in World War II, the other grandfather serving in the Navy in World War II. For her, service was hereditary.
On December 6, 2006, Megan was serving in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq as a Public Affairs Officer, when she was killed during combat operations. Megan was the first female Marine Corps officer to be killed in combat in Iraq. She was also the first female graduate of the Naval Academy to be killed in action since the school’s founding in 1845. Megan was often lauded for her ability, tenacity, and audacity.
Of her daughter’s death, Megan’s mother said, “A tragedy does not occur when you have a compelling desire to serve your country in the best possible way.”
I remember Corporal Clay Hunt, a Marine Corps veteran whom I never met, but has impacted my life and the lives of many other veterans, their families, and friends. Clay served a tour in Iraq as in infantryman, and was wounded in combat in 2007. Clay then became a sniper, and served another tour in Afghanistan.
Clay was not killed during his active duty service. After being wounded, Clay was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), which he would battle with for the rest of his life, but he still continued to serve. After leaving active duty in 2009, Clay became an advocate for PTS Awareness and suicide prevention for veterans. As one of the original members of TR, Clay wrote,
If I had one thing to say to my fellow veterans, it would be this: Continue to serve, even though we have taken off our uniforms. No matter how great or small your service is, it is desired and needed by the world we live in today.
Clay Hunt took his own life in March of 2011 after losing his battle with Post Traumatic Stress. Even though he died here at home, where he should have been safe, Clay Hunt is a casualty of war.
On this Memorial Day, remember those families and friends who now have an empty place in their homes and hearts. Take time to memorialize the service of those who have died for our country, for us. Find a way to continue to serve in their honor. Find a way to soldier on; to memorialize them; and to help our country at the same time. Help each other. Help your community. Help your town, your state, your nation.