Run honors local hero, helps mililtary injured

In the McClung family’s Coupeville 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.

While standing only 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 125 pounds, Maj. Megan McClung had a huge spirit and ability to inspire that later generated thousands of emails to her parents describing her as “unique,” “confident,” and a “genuine leader.”

“Those who knew her were so passionate about her,” said her mother, Re McClung.

While escorting Oliver North and a FOX News crew in Ramadi, Iraq, on Dec. 6, 2006, McClung, 34, was killed along with Capt. Travis Patquin and Specialist Vincent Pomante when their Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Since 2007, her memory is honored each year with a 5k and 10k run/walk at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to raise money for wounded Marines and their families.

Last Saturday, 275 people turned out for the event, including a friend of Megan’s who flew in from Iraq.

“Megan took Crystal under her arm and helped train her to run. She saw Megan as a mentor, and really wanted to honor her,” Michael McClung, Megan’s father, said of the friend.

McClung was herself a dedicated runner, competing in six Ironman competitions and running, swimming and bicycling around the world, including Kona and Brazil. Oct. 29, 2006 she organized the first Marine Corps Marathon at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, in coordination with the Washington, D.C. staff. There were 108 men and women runners on the line, including 70 first-time marathoners and two runners who traveled from Quatar. McClung took second place in the women’s division.

Because their daughter was concerned about wounded troops and their families, her parents now channel their energy into supporting beneficial charities to help them.

Saturday’s event raised $12,500.

Michael McClung stood at the finish line shaking hands with each of the athletes and handed out Military Challenge coins. The medallions traditionally symbolize a job well done. On one side is a carving of the “Marines helping Marines” logo. On the head of the coin is a photo of Megan McClung. It also included her mantra for her work in public affairs: “Be bold, be brief, be gone.”

The Washington state “Gold Star Mothers” surprised the family by running the registration desks, driving into Oak Harbor from Chehalis, Centralia, Tacoma and Port Orchard. The women are mothers of service members who were killed in service.

“They each had lost a son,” Re McClung said. “And from that meeting, I made a friend that would be a friend forever.”

The money earned will go toward injured veterans and people who need retraining for civilian life. The military is unable to allot funding for things such as DVD players and tape recorders that could help with memory training for brain injuries, Re said.

“Sometimes when people come back they withdraw or forget things and it isn’t known if they’ll improve. We met one woman who has to make lists before she leaves the house and can no longer work as an accountant. She has trouble making change for a dollar bill,” Re said.

Michael added, “We try to provide for needs the military can’t provide.”

At the event, Laurie Stewart was so touched by the family’s story and cause, that she wrote a check for $2,500.

Michael and Re talked to a Porsche dealership and held a drawing for one runner to have a sports car for the weekend, which was awarded to Dai Mengling.

“The cutest part of the day was the 5k for people under 20. Third place went to 8-year-old Bethany Ball who was the youngest of the group,” Major Jim Jones said.

First place honors for the women’s 5k went to Adrianna Royal from Coupeville with a time of 21:58. Among the men, Matthew Reith, an incoming OHHS freshman, crossed in first with a time of 20:18.

Dan Merz of Bellingham came in first in the 10k race with a time of 39 minutes and 55 seconds.

Like his daughter, who collected inspiring quotes on scraps of paper from age 9, Michael used Mark Twain to describe his emotions at the event. “If it wasn’t for honor, I wouldn’t be here.”

“I would rather my daughter be home. But that’s not the reality of the situation,” Michael said. “I think Megan would have been pleased with this.”