Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wednesday's Hero

Lt. Col. Michael E.  McLaughlin
Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin
44 years old from Mercer, Pennsylvania
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army
National Guard
January 4, 2006

Sitting in the car with Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin's 18-year-old
daughter, her father's friend of 21 years had just broken the news of his

During years of friendship and service in the Pennsylvania Army
National Guard, Lt. Col. McLauglin and retired Capt. Brad Mifsud had a bond so
close that they promised each other if something were ever to happen to
either one of them, they would be there for the other's family.

Lt. Col. McLaughlin died when a suicide bomber rushed through a crowd
of Iraqi police recruits in Ramadi and detonated a bomb that also killed
a Marine and nearly 80 Iraqis. The day before the attack, Lt. Col.
McLaughlin said he was fully confident that Ramadi had finally turned a
corner in the insurgency. As hundreds of local men streamed into the
Ramadi Glass Factory on Wednesday to join the city’s long-defunct police
force, a wide grin spread over a pinch of tobacco stuffed into the
44-year-old’s lower lip.

"This may not look like much, but it's history," McLaughlin told a
reporter. "We're making history right here."

With a significant wound to the back of his head, Lt. Col. McLaughlin
turned to his injured personal security detail officers and inquired
about their well-being. Waving off medical attention, he asked them to
check on the soldiers under his command.

"In an act of extreme selflessness, he stated that he was OK, but to
concentrate on saving the lives of his men," said Col. Grey Berrier, a
close friend of Lt. Col. McLaughlin.

Lt. Col. McLaughlin died shortly after giving that instruction,
according to the Guard.

A long-time artillery officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard,
McLaughlin was assigned to Task Force 2-222 Field Artillery and was the
primary liaison between the 2-28 Brigade Combat Team and local tribal
and government leaders in Ramadi. His efforts were instrumental in
getting local sheikhs to support the recruitment drive and encourage more
than 1,000 area men to volunteer for the force, commanders said.

"Mike is a true hero in every sense of the word, and he died while
doing his job the only way he knew how - out front and with great
enthusiasm and courage," said Col. John L. Gronski, commander of the 2-28 BCT.
"This loss only strengthens our resolve to carry on and complete the
mission in order to honor his memory."

A gregarious wisecracker, McLaughlin said his hope was to one day
return to a peaceful Iraq, where he planned to walk the streets of Ramadi in
a traditional Arab "man dress," or dishdasha, and sip coffee and chai
with those sheikhs he had met during the war. McLaughlin said that one
particular tribal leader he had developed a close relationship with
dubbed him "The Sheikh of Sheikhs" - a nickname that was soon picked up by
fellow officers in the brigade.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that
others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am
proud to call them Hero.
It Is Foolish And Wrong To Mourn The Men
Who Died. Rather We Should Thank God That Such Men Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. If you would like
to participate in honoring the brave men and women who serve this great
country, you can find out how by clicking here.

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