Marine's Character, Honor Recalled

Dressed in his alma mater's colors, Maj. Joseph
Dressed in his alma mater's colors, Maj. Joseph "Trane" McCloud's family planned to surprise him with this photo. (Family Photos)
By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 7, 2006

The poster-size photograph his wife planned to mail to Iraq was a surprise: Holding a large banner reading, "Happy Birthday Major Dad," she and the couple's three young children posed smiling. It was to mark Trane McCloud's 40th birthday next week.

But the toll of war intervened before the gift was sent. Maj. Joseph "Trane" McCloud, 39, was killed Sunday when the CH-46 helicopter he was riding in crash-landed in a lake in Anbar province.

The career Marine, who considered Alexandria his home, had been in Iraq for three months as the operations officer with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. "He gave his life doing what he believed in," said his mother, Roma Anderson.

"He was the love of my life," said his wife, Maggie McCloud, her voice breaking, "and I'm so devastated that my children are not going to grow up with him, because he was a man of character and honor."

Described as "a Marine's Marine," McCloud served some of the best days of his career with his boots on the ground, as a platoon and company commander, his family and friends said.

He also worked at the Pentagon, did a fellowship on Capitol Hill and served as an instructor at the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico.

"He shaped and molded a lot of kids into Marine officers," said R.J. "Mac" McDougall, a friend and retired chief warrant officer. "A lot of them are over in Iraq, and they're doing great because of Trane."

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, McCloud served on the USS Missouri, as part of the final group of Marines to work aboard the ship before it was decommissioned.

Shortly after President Bush declared the war on terrorism, McCloud was deployed to Zamboanga, in the Philippines, in charge of a small Marine unit during a time of violence and bombings. The Washington Post profiled the work of his unit, as part of a series of stories about the Sep. 11, 2001, Marines.

Later, when McCloud worked for Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), he assisted on military issues and took a special interest in a loan forgiveness program for inner-city teachers. "He really worked the issue hard," Wilson said.

McCloud was recalled yesterday as a good-natured man with a dry humor who cherished his family -- and his two-tone 1959 Ford Fairlane. In their Fort Hunt neighborhood, residents knew by the sight of the car that it was McCloud.

"He just loved it," McDougall said. Some days, McCloud went cruising. Other times, "he would go out and sit in the car and just think."

McCloud and his wife had moved from Alexandria to Hawaii this year, when he was assigned to Kaneohe Bay. Before he left for Iraq, he made sure he had one day with each of his children -- their own special "daddy day," his wife said.

A 1989 graduate of the University of Tennessee, McCloud enjoyed following his alma mater's football team, which is what inspired his wife and children -- Hayden, 7, Grace, 5, and Meghan, 2 -- to dress in the school's orange uniforms for his birthday photograph.

"I wanted to do something he would appreciate," his wife said. But it remains a gift unknown.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company