ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Mourners Honor Selfless Marine
Saturday, December 16, 2006
In the photograph, Maj. Joseph T. McCloud is standing at the crest of a hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates River. The picture, e-mailed last month to family and friends, captured a brief moment during McCloud's tour of duty in Iraq, where the Marine served as an operations officer.
While the snapshot revealed little about McCloud's mission, his broad, picture-postcard smile telegraphed home a sense of calm.
A few weeks later, on Dec. 3, McCloud, 39, who considered Alexandria home, was killed when the CH-46 helicopter he was traveling in malfunctioned and was forced to make an emergency landing on Lake Qadisiyah -- behind the dam where the photograph was taken, friends said.
Twelve service members survived the crash; McCloud and three other men, including Marine Cpl. Joshua C. Sticklen, 24, of Virginia Beach, were killed.
Yesterday, hundreds of mourners gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the career Marine they hailed as a man proud to wear the uniform.
"He was fully committed and believed whole-heartedly in what he was doing," said Wade Hutchens, who has been friends with McCloud, known by his middle name, "Trane," since they both pledged a fraternity in 1985 at the University of Tennessee. "There was never a shred of doubt with anything he did, going all the way back to college."
During yesterday's full-honors service, McCloud's flag-draped coffin was delivered to the grave site by a horse-drawn caisson, and the Marine Corps Band played a slow, mournful version of the Marine Corps Hymn.
McCloud was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where he reported in April. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1990 and was commissioned in April 1992. He was promoted posthumously to lieutenant colonel.
Thursday would have been McCloud's 40th birthday. He leaves behind his wife, Maggie McCloud, and three young children.
"He was the love of my life," Maggie McCloud told The Washington Post shortly after her husband's death. "I'm so devastated that my children are not going to grow up with him, because he was a man of character and honor."
McCloud attended high school in Grosse Pointe, Mich., outside Detroit, and later graduated from the University of Tennessee, where he studied liberal arts and history. According to news reports, he enlisted in the Marine Corps just in time for Desert Storm and served on the USS Missouri. It was the ship's captain who encouraged him to attend Officer Candidate School.
During his career, McCloud 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 and his wife moved from Alexandria to Hawaii this year.
Marine Maj. Pat Zaleski first met McCloud 13 years ago when they served together at Camp Lejeune. They later served together on the staff at Officer Candidate School and remained close friends. Yesterday, he escorted McCloud's remains to Arlington National Cemetery.
"There were very few things he loved more than the Marines, but things he did love more were his wife and children," Zaleski said. "As good a Marine as he was, he was a much better husband and father. . . . He was an absolutely selfless and humble man. Those are the best kind."