There isn't a correspondent in Iraq who hasn't known somebody who was killed or injured by the ongoing violence here. In 2004, I interviewed a head of a small women's political party who was vying to become the first female president of Iraq. She was assassinated a few months after I interviewed her and her daughter. She was the first of a long line of acquaintances, sources and friends who have been killed in Iraq.
On Wednesday, Maj. Megan McClung became the latest statistic. Last Wednesday, McClung was killed by an IED in Ramadi in the nasty Al Anbar province of western Iraq. Although other lower-enlisted female servicemembers have been killed in Iraq, McClung was the highest-ranking female to die in the nearly 4-year-long war.
She had a bubbly personality and was immediately stood out with her bright red hair, as pictured here. I did not know Megan personally, but we had traded emails and calls in the past because we had a similar background. She was a public affairs officer, or PAO.
Before I became a civilian newspaper hack and she became a teacher, Mr. and Mrs. Crab were both PAOs. We both graduated from the Defense Information School, or DINFOS, at the now-defunct Fort Benjamin Harrison base in Indianapolis. DINFOS is the military's journalism school, where servicemen and women from all branches of the military learn the basics of news writing, reporting, photograph, public relations and the art of spin-doctoring.
DINFOS graduates are a close-knit bunch, referring to themselves as "DINFOS Trained Killers" or "Chairborne Rangers," a self-deprecating description for PAO soldiers who normally do not serve on the front lines of combat.
Here in Iraq, there are no front lines. Everyone is a potential target. On the day McClung died, 10 other U.S. soldiers lost their lives in Iraq.
McClung was buried today in Arlington National Cemetery. She was just 34. Rest in Peace.