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In Afghanistan, troops run to honor Marine from Orange County

August 13, 2011 | 11:04 am

Marine She was killed in Iraq in 2006 but the memory of this energetic Marine from Orange County continues to be honored and to inspire other U.S. military personnel deployed to war zones.

In Afghanistan this week, more than 500 Marines and other troops participated in a 5-kilometer run to honor the life and service of Major Megan McClung.

The run honoring McClung is an annual event and has been held in Iraq, at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., and now at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

"People around the world are running to honor her memory," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rachel Oden, who graduated with McClung from the Naval Academy in 1995.

Born in Hawaii, McClung grew up in Orange County and graduated from Mission Viejo High School in 1990.

She was killed by a roadside bomb blast in Ramadi on Dec. 6, 2006, while serving as a public affairs officer helping journalists to understand the fight in Anbar province. She wanted the world to know that Anbar, once considered a lost cause for the U.S., was changing due to the work of the Marine Corps, U.S. Army and Sunni sheiks.

In the recently published "A Soldier's Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq," author William Doyle quotes a Marine lieutenant colonel that McClung was "a fireball... she could charm anybody out of their socks."

Another officer says of McClung, "She could not simply enter a room. She bounced and bounded in, ready to meet anyone and anything with an optimistic tenacity that intimidated some, but inspired many."

She was a runner and competed in triathlons. She was 34 when she died -- the first female Marine officer to be killed in Iraq. While deployed, she organized a variant of the Marine Corps Marathon as a morale booster for troops.

At the run this week in Camp Leatherneck, dozens of Marines knew McClung. Many more had heard of her.

"To be able to say I knew her, and to be here doing something to honor her memory and all the good things she did, is an honor," said Oden.

Share a memory about McClung on The Times' California's War Dead database.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Major Megan McClung. Credit: Marine Corps

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