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Let's take a listen. I first stumbled on Megan's story during a walk through section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, which is where so many post-9-11 fallen heroes now rest. And what really caught my eye as I walked through that solemn sacred ground was six words on Megan's white headstone.
They said, be bold, be brief, be gone. And of course had her awards and her branch, the United States Marine Corps, and the dates of her birth and death. So when I took the Metro back to my dad's house in Vienna, Virginia, the first thing I wanted to do is find out who she was and what those words meant.
And that was way back in 2010. And I've had an honor of a lifetime to write a book about Megan and kind of answer some of those questions that first popped into my mind on that day at Arlington National Cemetery. So Megan McClung was born in Hawaii in 1972. She was the daughter of Reed McClung and Captain Mike McClung Sr., who served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. He was also a Marine Corps officer.
Both her grandfathers also served our nation in World War II. But one of the earliest stories that Megan's mom, Reed, told me as we started to discuss the book and discuss Megan's life was that she said at a very young age to her mom that I don't think there's a glass ceiling or anything limiting me from what I can become just because I'm a girl. Reed tried to explain to young Megan at the time that there are certain things that women haven't done yet. And they weren't just talking about the military just in general. And Megan said, well, Mom, there's only a glass ceiling if you can see it.
And I don't see one. And her mom explained this to me that she didn't set out to be a trailblazer. She just did not want anything to stop her from reaching her goals. One of the examples that really brought that home for me was Megan at the very beginning of high school. Her family settled down, by the way, after she was born in Hawaii.
They eventually settled down in Mission Viejo, California. And right in the beginning of high school, there was a weightlifting class that Megan wanted to enroll in. And there was a sign that said no girls allowed. And Megan said, well, what do you mean no girls allowed?
That's not OK with me. So her parents didn't even know this until after the fact. But she went straight to the school board meeting and argued her case for why she should be allowed to be in that weightlifting class. And she won. She was admitted to the class. And she really impressed the guys in the class, too. And I think many of them couldn't keep up with her. But she was, you know, from a very young age, she was athletic. She participated in gymnastics at a very high level from a very young age. But, you know, as she grew up and she became very focused on, you know, serving her country in the military like her father did. She spoke to her father. They had a very close bond.
You know, we're back in, you know, 1989, 1990. And, you know, there was one thing that really struck me. One of her friends from high school told me about when Megan was really starting to get serious about going to one of the service academies. She wanted to be a fighter pilot.
And she was looking at both the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy. And and her friend said to her, you know, hey, Megan, you know, isn't this dangerous? You know, we always watch the movie Top Gun together and and Goose dies in that movie. And so do other characters. And, you know, this is real life. Like, aren't you afraid of of what could happen to you? And Megan responded and said, we're all going to die.
I'd rather die on the battlefield. And again, this is a 16 or 17 year old high school student talking. So she wrote a she wrote an essay for, you know, admission to the Naval Academy. She said, I have several long range goals for my life. The primary goal is to be a military officer. I would like the opportunity to become a career officer in an aviation field. To conclude, I believe that I would be an asset to the military and a strong leader. I hope that the academy will recognize my strengths and select me for an appointment to Annapolis.
There I can pursue my desire to honorably serve my country. And that was in the year November 19th, 1989. So, you know, it seemed like, you know, with her drive and, you know, she had solid grades and a family history of serving that she would have been a shoe in for the Naval Academy. But she actually her application was denied, which was a probably the first big setback in Megan's life and in her career. But as her mom told me, Megan would always say, we don't give up.
We find another way. So what Megan decided to do instead was apply to a preparatory military academy. And she was accepted as the first female cadet in the history of that school.
So she went to Toms River, New Jersey, and began her year at Admiral Farragut Academy with a goal of, you know, if I can impress my commanding officers here and get good grades, that maybe the Naval Academy will give me another shot. And she had a lot of challenges there. She was, you know, competing against the boys and but also never wanting to make excuses or say, well, I can't compete at this level because I'm a female.
She never did that. She just tried her best and tried to keep up. And she did.
And in many cases, she went far beyond her male classmates. So she also tried out. I think it was during a summer break in a fighter pilot program and realized that she couldn't handle the G-force. So she knew that she would not be up in the air if she joined the military and would have to find a different track. I think that's when she started to look at the Marine Corps versus the Navy. So anyway, in 1990, she was accepted to the Naval Academy, one of only five students at Admiral Farragut Academy to be admitted. And she officially became a member of the Naval Academy class of 1995. Obviously, a huge moment and a proud moment in her life and for her dad and her mom and everybody in her family. So Megan goes to Annapolis and gets started and quickly realizes how difficult of an environment it would be for her, not just because she was a female, but the academic rigors along with competing in gymnastics.
She also started to have some injuries and physical challenges. And at the end of the day, she graduated in 1995 and became a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. So I found a journal that Megan kept and also a book full of quotes that meant a lot for her. And early on, after she joined the Marine Corps, she wrote this on a note card. It said, I joined the Marine Corps to support my country and will go where needed.
I'm proud to serve as a US Marine and I'm ready to do whatever is needed to support the American people and our interests. I think another thing that really fascinated me about Megan's journey and the journey of anyone who joined the military in those days, they had no idea what was coming around the corner. That on graduation day in 1995, you know, six short years later, America would be attacked and life as really all of us knew it, but particularly those who served in the military would change in ways they never could have imagined. And you've been listening to author Tom Sillio tell the story of Megan McClung.
There's only a glass ceiling if you see one. Megan told her mom about doing things that, well, women generally weren't thought to do back when she was young. She was focused like her dad on a career in the military and her grandfathers both served in World War II. Her father was a Marine and served in Vietnam.
She went to prep school and the very next year she was at Annapolis, the US Naval Academy, and graduated in 95, a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. When we come back, more of Megan McClung's story here on Our American Stories. get a free gold IRA kit and learn how thousands are diversifying their retirement savings with gold and silver. I heart listeners could get up to $10,000 in free silver with a qualified account. GoldCo is the number one rated precious metals company recommended by Sean Hannity.
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Get yours at Walmart today. And we continue with our American stories and author Tom Sillio, his book, be bold, how a Marine Corps hero broke barriers for women at war. He's telling the story of Megan McClung.
Let's pick up where we last left off. Megan was actually in Cherry Point, North Carolina at the time. She chose to be a public affairs officer actually because her dad told her that if there was a conflict someday and she wanted to be close to the action as a woman, that was really the best way to do it because public affairs officers have to cover the battles in the war and Megan would get to go where the men who are fighting would get to go. At the time, women were barred from combat roles. I even put some polls in the book from the time where the vast majority of the public did not want women on the front lines or anywhere near them.
And politicians, there were definitely some that wanted to remove that barrier, but many didn't because they looked at the polls and said, well, if the people aren't demanding it, then why bother? But Megan wanted to be as close to the action as she could be even before 9-11. But on that day when she was at Cherry Point, Megan said, well, okay, it's 2001. We're going to war in Afghanistan.
How can I get there as quickly as possible? And when it became apparent to her actually that she was not going to get to go to Iraq or Afghanistan in her current role, she actually took the step of going to the Marine Corps Reserve and joining a private military contractor. She signed a one-year contract because she thought that was the best way for her to get to the Middle East as soon as possible. She actually asked during every job interview, she asked that question, how fast can you get me to the Middle East? But there were also some limitations when she got there. She initially went to Kuwait as a contractor and at first they didn't want her to go to Iraq. They were afraid that if a woman especially was killed in Iraq, a civilian contractor who's also in the Marine Corps Reserve, that it would create negative headlines for the company. She just would not give in until they finally let her go to Baghdad and file one story per day about what our troops and other civilian contractors were doing there to not only help turn the tide in the conflict, but to help the Iraqi people. One of the things she did as a contractor was she had read something back home about a little girl who wanted to send Beanie Baby dolls over to the Iraqi children. Megan saw that and another friend of her saw that and they said, well, let's do it.
Let's make it happen. For the next few months, Megan was busy going through crates full of Beanie Babies and trying to get them out to the civilian population. That really meant something. I mean, there were Marines going into war zones to give these children, just to make their days a little bit brighter and to tell the Iraqis that, hey, we're on your side here and we're against Al Qaeda. They're not here giving you Beanie Babies, they're forcibly strapping suicide vests on your kids and sending them out to kill Americans. Megan started developing relationships with the wives of some of the local elders and tribal officials in Iraq. Yeah, they saw her putting on some face cream at one point and wanted to try it out and they loved it.
Immediately, Megan sent an email to her mom and said, send as much facial cream as you can immediately, just like when she started the Beanie Baby effort. Again, it was just a small but significant way to show them that we're on your side, we want to be your friends, and we care about you. Again, those were things that, thinking back to the way the war was covered at the time, you wouldn't see a lot of stories like that. But Megan said, hey, these things matter. She did another story about a crew of civilian contractors who would go out and fix military vehicles that were stuck at night and risked their lives to do so. Just a lot of the unsung heroes of war that you don't hear too often about, that really mattered to Megan and she really wanted to both get those stories out and also help win those hearts and minds of Iraq. After Megan got through her time at the contractor, she was actually more convinced than ever that she needed to go back to Iraq a second time because she felt there were limitations on what she could do as a contractor in terms of telling stories and that news outlets at home, the civilian contractor would pitch stories to news outlets and tell stories about what they could do. Many of them were ignored, which really stung for Megan because she was working so hard to get out there into Baghdad, risking her life. There was an incident, a very close call for her during an attack in Baghdad on the vehicle she was riding in. She was undaunted by it. She wanted to go back, but she told her friend when she got home, she goes, I'm going back there, but this time I'm going back on active duty as a Marine and maybe this time they'll listen.
Finally, she realized that she would get her opportunity. She was a captain then. Megan deployed in late 2005, early 2006 to Fallujah, Iraq and Anbar province. I think anybody who has read or remembers what was going on in Iraq in 2006 will recall that Fallujah and the Anbar province as a whole was frankly the most violent place on earth at the time. When she got there, there were attacks almost every single day in Fallujah and around Anbar province, basically an all out civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq was becoming a brutal force to be reckoned with.
It already was, frankly. The sectarian violence was just off the charts, but Megan tried to focus on all the good that American troops were trying to do during such a brutal time. As she started going through the deployment, she started noticing some changes in Anbar province.
What it was was the early stages of what became known as the Anbar awakening, where local Iraqi tribes realized that Al Qaeda was the enemy. It was toward the last third of it that Megan got called into our commanding officer's office and said, we'd actually like you to go to Ramadi because there's some really key leadership engagements happening there to try to turn the tide overall in Anbar province. Even though Ramadi actually had become more violent than Fallujah at that point, Megan immediately jumped at the opportunity.
She joined the Ready First combat team as a public affairs officer. Megan really got to get out there, even though it was incredibly dangerous, and tell those stories about all the progress that was being made. Regardless of one's viewpoint on the Iraq war and the ultimate outcome of what happened, there was clearly a transformation that took place at that time. Combined with the surge effort and General Petraeus' strategy, that really did turn the tide of the Iraq war at the time. Megan played a key role in that.
You're listening to author Tom Silio tell the story of Megan McClung. My goodness, this is a woman who wanted to be where the action was. At the time, women were barred from combat. So whatever could get her closest to combat, that's where she wanted to be. How fast can you get me to the Middle East?
She would hector whoever she could. And in 2006, after going through a couple of contractors, she finds herself in, of all places, well, the most violent place on earth at the time, Anbar province, the battles of Fallujah, and ultimately to Ramadi. Because it turns out there was an awakening occurring in Anbar, the locals had discovered that Al-Qaeda was their real enemy.
When we come back, more of this remarkable story, the story of Megan McClung here on Our American Stories. War, inflation, and over 31 trillion dollars in debt. It's looking like 2008 all over again. Millions of Americans watched their retirement savings disappear, while those who invested in physical gold and silver were protected. And if you have $50,000 or more in your IRA, 401k, or savings, you could be at risk again. Visit goldco.com slash IHART to get a free gold IRA kit and learn how thousands are diversifying their retirement savings with gold and silver. IHART listeners could get up to $10,000 in free silver with a qualified account. GoldCo is the number one rated precious metals company recommended by Sean Hannity. With over one billion dollars in gold and silver placed, an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau, thousands of five-star customer reviews, and seven-time Inc. 5000 winner, you'll be in good company. Visit goldco.com slash IHART to get up to $10,000 in free silver. That's goldco.com slash IHART. Want to get away but still listen to your favorite radio stations and podcasts?
Then listen up. IHART radio is now the onboard music partner on select Southwest flights. That means you can jam out to your favorite local radio station, even if you're flying coast to coast. Check out expertly curated stations that are perfect for kids and adults. Available on most domestic Southwest flights and perfect for a full nonstop or those pesky minutes between a movie ending and your plane touching down.
So grab your headphones, raise your tray table, and relax with IHART radio and Southwest Airlines. With backyard barbecues and summer get-togethers coming in hot, it's the perfect time to upgrade your entertainment setup. Whether it's outdoor movies on the big screen or cheering on your favorite soccer team with friends, you can get a 65-inch Vizio V-Series 4K Smart TV for just $398 at Walmart. With its big screen, crystal clear picture, and built-in apps like IHART radio to play all your favorite music, radio, and podcasts, this is the perfect TV for gatherings big or small.
Get yours at Walmart today. And we continue with our American stories and Megan McClung's story as told by author Tom Silio. Let's pick up where we last left off. Obviously, technology was more limited in 2006. And despite that, she was still taking online courses at Boston University Metropolitan College and eventually earned her master's in criminal justice, which, you know, to think that somebody is in a place like Fallujah or Ramadi and able to earn a master's degree kind of speaks to, you know, the kind of person Megan was and the drive that she had. And another big thing that Megan had taken on after she was unable to continue competing in gymnastics at the Naval Academy for both some injuries she suffered and also the team being contracted, Megan got very interested in running marathons and then eventually triathlons and the Ironman triathlon. And she competed all over the country and the world in those events. And one of the things that she wanted to do in Iraq after running the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, D.C., Megan said, well, hey, why can't we do it over here?
So what if we're in a war zone? We can still run. And she wound up being instrumental in organizing the first ever Marine Corps marathon forward, which was held, I believe, in November of 2006 near Fallujah. She actually had to fly back there to work on the race and officiate it. And she worked so hard on that, in addition to her studies at Boston University, to make the race happen. And it was a huge success. And it continues to this day in the Middle East and around the world. They even hand out an award at the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. for Megan. It's called the Penguin Award. And it's given to the last place finisher because Megan would never quit, no matter what.
So the race had occurred. Megan went back to Ramadi on December 6th, 2006, late in the evening back in the United States. Her dad tried to reach her over Google Chat. And Megan said, Dad, I'm sorry. I'm just so busy right now. We have a Newsweek team coming in along with Fox News, War Stories with Oliver North, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.
And, you know, I have a huge day tomorrow and I want to make sure I'm prepared. Her dad said, I love you. And that was the end of the conversation. Well, that day, December 6th, 2006, in Ramadi wound up being, you know, a day that nobody who knew Megan would ever forget. It started with her being incredibly enthusiastic to take Oliver North's Fox News crew out into Ramadi and show them the progress that was being made. You know, when they dropped off Colonel North and his crew at another base, he patted her on the shoulder and told her she was a great Marine. And, you know, one of the really special things about the way this book came together is that Oliver North is one of the co-founders of Fidelis Publishing. So he actually got to meet Megan and then wound up publishing a book about her all these years later.
And thank you, Colonel North, for believing in this project and wanting to help tell Megan's story. So after the Fox News embed, she escorted a team of Newsweek journalists. So it was her second, you know, trip of the day. And just to really think about what it meant at the time to get in a military vehicle and ride through a place like Ramadi, just by getting in to the truck and driving around, you were risking your life because there were not only snipers in the buildings and on top of the buildings, but there were improvised explosive devices known as IEDs buried all over the place that would kill and maim American troops, Iraqi troops, and civilians, innocent civilians alike.
So, you know, when I say get in the truck and drive around, you know, there's real risk involved. And Megan was willing to do that not once, but twice in one day because she wanted that Newsweek team to get the real story about what was going on in Ramadi. So she was riding in a Humvee with Captain Patrician and a specialist, Vincent Pamante, as well as their driver. And they were going through Ramadi, not in the same vehicle as the Newsweek team, and their vehicle wound up hitting an IED. It blew up right under Megan, killed her instantly.
Captain Patrician and specialist Pamante were also killed. The driver survived and was very heroic in trying to save the lives of others, as were the Newsweek team. The Newsweek reporter, you know, helped throw water on the driver who had suffered burns. And it was a terrible moment that nobody who knew Megan would ever forget, but it was also a historic moment because afterwards it became clear that not only was Megan the highest ranking female Marine officer to make the ultimate sacrifice during the Iraq War, but she was also the first female Naval Academy graduate in the history of the institution, dating back to the 1800s, to be killed in action. And another thing that, you know, started to spread like wildfire after Megan was killed was the words that wound up being on her headstone at Arlington, those six words that I saw while I was walking through, be bold, be brief, be gone. You know, it was some of the officers, the fellow public affairs officers that began to share that with her family and with other reporters. And they said, well, that was actually be bold, be brief, be gone were the instructions Megan would give us when dealing with the media.
You know, get your point across, don't take too long and get out of there, whether it was the media or briefing senior military officers. But as Megan made the ultimate sacrifice and through all the tears that were shed that followed, they realized that it perfectly summarized how Megan lived her 34 years, be bold, be brief, be gone. And her legacy is only grown from a state of the art studio that was built in Baghdad for public affairs officers and was named after her to a building at the defense information school, which Megan attended at Fort Meade to her bronze star. And then, you know, another thing that really struck me as well, as she once wrote in her yearbook, actually at Admiral Farragut Academy, as the first woman to ever attend, she said, I'm more scared of being nothing than I am of being hurt. Megan's parents also politely pushed back whenever journalists, including yours truly, referred to their daughter's death as tragic. And when I said that to Rhi, she jumped right in when I said, oh, I'm so sorry about the tragic death of your daughter.
She immediately said that to me. She said, this is not a tragedy when someone gets to do what they've always wanted to do and make the ultimate sacrifice while doing it. That's not tragic. It's a heroic and beautiful thing.
I'm paraphrasing. After Megan was killed, they had a memorial service for her in the war zone in Ramadi, Iraq. This was on December 9th, 2006. So three days after Megan was killed and obviously a very emotional ceremony. And one of the speakers was Marine Lieutenant Colonel John Church, who Megan had served under many years earlier, and he gave a very emotional speech about Megan. This is a tough day, but perhaps the following words will allow us some solace, as we remember Major Megan Malia Leilani McClung and go forward as valiantly as she did and make Al Anbar Province a safer place.
We can picture her saying to us, 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 on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn's rain. When you awaken the morning's hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds and 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. What Lieutenant Colonel Church couldn't have known while delivering his address in Ramadi on December 9th, 2006, was that more than 14 years earlier, Megan copied that exact poem down in her quote book. It was dated November 15th, 1992, which meant she almost certainly scribbled down the unknown author's words as a young midshipman on a chilly fall night in Annapolis.
And a terrific job on the production, editing, and storytelling by our own Greg Hengler and a special thanks to Tom Sillio. His book, Be Bold, How a Marine Corps Hero Broke Barriers for Women at War is available wherever you buy your books. What a legacy Megan McClung left behind. She was the highest ranking female Marine officer to be killed in action and she was the first female graduate from Annapolis to be killed in action. She was 34, but her legacy has only grown in large measure thanks to people like Tom and so many others in the Marine Corps. I'm more scared of being nothing than being hurt, she would say. On December 6th, 2006, that happened. She was more than hurt, killed by an IED in Ramadi, the most dangerous work there could be in the world at the time. The death was not tragic, as the mother said, she died doing what she wanted to do.
The story of Megan McClung here on Our American Stories. Plus, you'll save 10% when you shop your quiz results. Get started at versedskin.com slash skin decoder. That's V-E-R-S-E-D-S-K-I-N dot com slash skin decoder. Most TVs are smart nowadays, but with busy home screens and remotes with too many or too few buttons, smart shouldn't mean complicated. That's why Roku TV is the smart TV made easy. The customizable home screen puts your inputs, streaming favorites like iHeart and free live TV all in one place. From simple settings anyone can understand, automatic updates with the latest features and much more. Roku TV is more than a smart TV, it's a better TV. Learn more today at roku.com.
Happy streaming. I'm Malcolm Grandbaugh. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.
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