Image courtesy: Pfc. David Hauk, U.S. Army. Kandahar, Afghanistan, November 12, 2009

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Uncle Nick

Images courtesy: Olivia Hoffman

Only days after her brother lost his legs in Afghanistan, Olivia Hoffman learned that she and her husband were expecting their second child. Already overwhelmed with emotion as her big brother fought for his life, Olivia asked God for strength.

"I cried many nights following that wondering if this baby would ever get to meet (his or her) Uncle Nick," Olivia said in an email to The Unknown Soldiers. Her account of the months since Army 1st Lt. Nick Vogt was nearly killed in a Kandahar province terrorist attack on Nov. 12, 2011, is among the most poignant pieces of writing one will ever encounter.

"Although he only got to meet my other daughter in the hospital when she was born (he deployed two days later) he would always mail her stuff and Skype with us," she continued. "After his brain surgery, his memory is a little rocky, and he hadn't remembered that I had a daughter, but he got to see her through the door at Christmas and he by far gave her the biggest smile."

First Lt. Vogt has undergone countless surgeries since his life was saved by soldiers on the battlefield and doctors in Afghanistan, Germany, and the United States. The amount of blood needed to keep the Army Ranger alive, according to family members, is among the most ever given to a wounded service member.

"His biggest hurdle right now is getting rid of the ventilator," Olivia wrote on Jan. 13.

As I initially worked on this column, Olivia asked me to pause after Nick's condition suddenly deteriorated. According to doctors, Nick almost died on the operating table during surgery on one of his lungs. Even amid a frightening setback, the Vogt family, friends, and thousands of supporters on the "Nick Vogt Family" Facebook page simultaneously dropped to their knees in prayer.

About 48 hours later, their prayers were answered.

"Nick has been very stable these last two days, and doctors are optimistic the surgery was a success in repairing the lung," Olivia wrote.

Nick, who turned 24 in the hospital on Dec. 13, 2011, is the oldest of five siblings. As their brother fights for his life, Olivia, 22, cares for her two younger sisters and brother in Crestline, Ohio, while her parents spend countless hours at Nick's Bethesda, Md., bedside.

"They are up at 6 every morning walking to the hospital and don't leave until around 8 (p.m.)," she explained. "They put on such strong faces for Nick. We always tease mom because she is such a 'crier' and very emotional, but her and Dad have really been Nick's rock throughout this whole ordeal."

The community is not only rallying around Nick because he is a wounded warrior. From relatives to folks who barely know Nick, everyone I've corresponded with says he is a genuinely splendid person.

"Nobody has ever not liked him," Olivia said. "He's also one of the most humble human beings I know."

Even while dealing with unimaginable pain in the hospital, Nick's warm personality brightens the smiles of his caregivers.

"Mom just shared a funny story with me," his sister wrote. "The other day there were four nurses working around him, and one was very cute.

"Nick woke up and mouthed 'you're beautiful,' then realizing he didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, he mouthed the same to the other nurses," Olivia continued. "That's totally Nick!"

A decision this selfless patriot made earlier in life is also "totally Nick." After being accepted to medical school following his West Point graduation, Vogt chose to first attend Army Ranger School. He wanted to deploy as quickly as possible.

"I want to be a warrior in order to take care of warriors," Olivia quoted her brother as saying.

Even though doctors now take care of him, 1st Lt. Nick Vogt will always be a warrior. And as his next niece or nephew grows up, the child will want to be just like Uncle Nick.

"Despite being stuck in the ICU for two months and still not being able to talk, he will mouth the words 'thank you' to his nurses," Olivia said.

Let's all join together in mouthing those words right back.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fathers and Sons

Image courtesy: U.S. Air Force/Roland Balik

Almost every American sports fan has heard of Hickory, Ind., which was immortalized in the 1986 film "Hoosiers." Yet many who recite the movie's unforgettable lines think Hickory actually exists. It doesn't, although some real-life towns come close.

The northern Indiana town of Hamlet is about 100 miles from New Richmond, where most of "Hoosiers" was filmed. Like the fictional community that Hickory High unites on its way to an improbable men's basketball state championship, Hamlet is tiny, with just 300 households full of fathers and sons who love Indiana sports.

Spc. Robert Tauteris III just returned to the Hoosier State from Afghanistan, where he was serving with the 713th Engineer Company of the Indiana National Guard. Instead of a welcome home celebration, though, the 22-year-old soldier came back to the United States for a Jan. 8 dignified transfer ceremony.

The soldier escorted the flag-draped casket carrying his father, Spc. Robert Tauteris Jr., home from Afghanistan. On Jan. 6, alongside Staff Sgt. Jonathan Metzger, 32, Spc. Christopher Patterson, 20, and Spc. Brian Leonhardt, 21, the elder Tauteris, 44, was killed by an improvised explosive device planted in the volatile Kandahar Province, according to the Pentagon.

Surrounded by his family, the grieving son spoke to reporters on Jan. 11. Quotes from the news conference are provided by WSBT-TV reporter Clifton French, an Iraq war veteran.

"It was an honor being able to escort my father and the other fallen soldiers home from Afghanistan," Tauteris said. "It's something I'll never forget, and I'm more honored to do that than I have been to do many things in my life."

Long before the father and son served together in Afghanistan, the younger Robert and his brother, Matthew, looked up to their dad.

"He stood up as our boy scout leader from the time we were very young to being too old to be in boy scouts," the soldier said.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, stood and saluted in the darkness of Delaware's Dover Air Force Base as fellow troops carried each flag-draped casket onto the soil of the nation they died for. Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, called on Americans to recognize the enormous sacrifices still being made in Afghanistan.

"We have no more solemn obligation than rendering the proper respect, honor, and tribute to these faithful warriors and to provide the fullest possible support to their families during this difficult time," Maj. Gen. Umbarger said.

Tauteris reminded reporters that while his dad was a dedicated soldier after enlisting at age 40, he was a father, first and foremost.

"I can't stress enough how much he cared about me and my brother," the soldier said. "It was the most important thing to him; it was like his meaning in life was to be a father."

America's post-9/11 conflicts have touched many fathers and sons. In May 2010, Chief Warrant Officer Michael McHugh boarded a plane in Iraq, where he was deployed, to meet the flag-draped casket of his father, Col. John McHugh, 46, who had been killed alongside four fellow troops in Afghanistan.

Just days after Col. McHugh's death, the Kansas City Royals honored the fallen hero by asking his grieving son to throw out the first pitch before a home game.

"I lost my best friend," Chief Warrant Officer McHugh wrote to the Unknown Soldiers in 2010. "The first pitch at Kauffman Stadium was such an honor, and we're grateful to the Royals for doing that for our family."

Like Michael McHugh, Robert Tauteris III is an American soldier — but also a son who lost his dad.

"He is a hero," Spc. Tauteris III said of his father. "I think what made him who he is ... is how much he cared about his children and his family."

One of the most touching moments in "Hoosiers" comes when Hickory's assistant coach, played by Dennis Hopper, is thrust into leading the team after the head coach, played by Gene Hackman, is ejected. After the play he drew up wins the game in dramatic fashion, he is approached by a player who is also his son.

"You did good, pop," he said. "You did real good."


Image courtesy: Sgt. John Crosby

Friday, January 20, 2012

Evil Does Exist

Image courtesy: Sgt. Laura Bonano

One of the most troubling aspects of the decline in America's interest in the war our troops are fighting overseas is the unwillingness for certain segments of American society -- namely some members of the national media -- to acknowledge that every day on the battlefield, our forces are confronting evil men.

A stark reminder was offered Thursday by a group of cowardly Taliban terrorists in Kandahar, Afghanistan. According to the BBC, at least seven civilians were killed when a suicide bomber blew up his car near the crucial southern city's airport. According to Afghan officials cited in the article, two victims of the terrorist attack were children.

There is nothing more despicable and horrifying than the murder of a child. The Taliban and al Qaeda don't give a second thought to butchering even the most innocent people on earth.

A day earlier, dozens of Afghans and also an unidentified number of coalition troops were killed and wounded when a terrorist blew himself up in a busy Helmand province marketplace. A young Afghan victim is pictured above. Gen. John R. Allen, the tough-as-nails Marine who commands the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, immediately condemned the disgraceful attack.

"This latest act of violence further confirms that the insurgency has declared outright war on the people of Afghanistan and will stop at nothing to continue to use terrorism and intimidation to advance their own malign and selfish ends," Gen. Allen said. "ISAF will continue to partner with the Afghan National Security Forces to eliminate this scourge and hold the perpetrators accountable."

Every American should share in the general's outrage about the Taliban's assault on freedom and innocent life. I hope every terrorist responsible for helping plan these attacks is hunted down, captured, or killed.

File image courtesy: Lance Cpl. Robert Carrasco

On Thursday, six U.S. Marines were reportedly killed when a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter like the one pictured above crashed in Helmand province. The Unknown Soldiers will continue to follow this tragic story as we extend our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of these fallen Marines.

On Sunday, also in Helmand province, two Marines were killed in action while conducting combat operations against the Taliban.

Cpl. Jon-Luke Bateman, 22, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Lance Cpl. Kenneth Cochran, 20, Wilder, Idaho

It is a tragedy that Cpl. Bateman, who is pictured below on the left, and Lance Cpl. Cochran, right, only lived 42 years between them. But America is extremely fortunate to blessed with heroes like these. They understood -- far better than you or me -- that there is a serious threat to our way of life. But unlike 99% of our population, they volunteered to do something about it.

At this hour in Oklahoma, Idaho, and around the country, families and friends are saying goodbye to some of the best citizens our country has to offer. At this hour in Afghanistan, their brothers and sisters in arms continue the fight against men who intentionally slaughter children in a hopeless effort to advance their corrupt, bankrupt ideology of hate.

Real evil does exist. But fortunately for America and the world, real heroes exist too.

Images courtesy: Facebook/U.S. Marine Corps

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Mayor of Bordentown

Images courtesy: Moore family

In cities and towns across America, millions of little children dream of becoming firefighters, soldiers or leaders. In Bordentown, N.J., one little boy became all three.

"We lived about a half a block from a firehouse," Amy Moore told The Unknown Soldiers. "Ben would always go to where the city workers were."

Her son, future Army Spc. Benjamin Moore, felt an instant connection to those who put out fires. The little boy wanted to learn more about his heroes and their families.

"He knew everything about everyone," she said.

On Sept. 11, 2001, as an anguished Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the number of casualties in New York would be "more than any of us can bear," Ben watched emergency workers risk everything to save the innocent. Just 65 miles from the epicenter of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Ben, 14, resolved to become a firefighter.

"He said, 'Mom, I want to be respected,'" Amy recalled. "'I want to wear the uniform, and I want people to look up to me.'"

On his 16th birthday, still coping with an impairment that affected his vision since early childhood, Ben signed up to train as a volunteer firefighter. Two years later, he also became an emergency medical technician.

As a young firefighter and EMT, Ben quietly displayed compassionate, gallant qualities.

"A little baby died in his arms after he pulled the baby out of a car," Amy said. "I don't know why he never told us; he was just a humble man."

While lending a hand to his fellow citizens was fulfilling, Ben thought he could do even more. As he struggled to decide between becoming a police officer and going to college, his father, recognizing his son's dedication to duty, suggested a military career.

"My husband and I don't regret that at all," she said. "It's something (Ben) wanted to do."

When the Army raised concerns about Moore's vision and ordered further testing, Ben could have easily moved on.

"He had to go to the recruiting office a few times and really fight for it," Amy said.

After finally passing his vision tests, Ben left for boot camp, and came back "a totally different man than when he left," according to the soldier's mom. A year later, in April 2010, the mature, battle-ready soldier would deploy to Afghanistan. But first, his older brother, Patrick, had a favor to ask.

"Patrick proposed to his now-wife and asked Ben to be his best man," she said. "Ben was ecstatic."

On Jan. 12, 2011, with roughly 60 combat patrols under his belt thus far during the deployment, Ben asked a soldier to give him a Bible before returning to the battlefield to sweep for roadside bombs.

"We think Ben had a premonition," his mother said.

Later that day, Spc. Moore, 23, was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Ghazni province. He died alongside Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves, 30, and Cpl. Jarrid King, 20.

As the Moores brought Ben's flag-draped casket to his hometown from Delaware's Dover Air Force Base, the ambulance he once drove, along with a Bordentown city fire truck, followed closely behind. On bridges, firefighters stood atop their trucks to salute one of their own.

"Every single overpass on I-295 had an American flag," Ben's mom recalled.

When Ben's personal effects were returned to his loved ones, they were stunned to find a notebook containing a handwritten speech that he planned to deliver at his brother's wedding. Ben saved a typed version to his laptop on Jan. 10, just two days before his death.

As wedding guests wept, Patrick, 28, read his younger brother's toast.

"Remember to always live, laugh, love, and have no regrets ... never look back at the hard times," Ben wrote. "Always make the best of life like you do now. Cheers."

Instead of dreaming about becoming firefighters, soldiers, or leaders, little children in Bordentown now strive to be like Spc. Benjamin Moore. After all, Ben is now the city's honorary mayor.

"His death has affected many lives, and you could tell by the outpouring," Ben's mother said. "It helped us, but it also helped them to be able to have a hero."


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marine's Best Friend

Image courtesy: Cpl. Reece Lodder

I'm not sure what Marines deployed to Afghanistan would consider their best friend -- a dog or a good night's sleep.

The above photograph was taken last week by Cpl. Reece Lodder, who The Unknown Soldiers profiled just before he left for Afghanistan. Needless to say, the Marine combat correspondent is doing fine work during a tough deployment.

According to Cpl. Lodder's caption, the dog in the photo, Blue, detects improvised explosive devices. Blue is protecting his handler, Marine Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, 21, of Millingport, North Carolina, as he takes a quick nap (covered by a Washington Redskins blanket) after helping Afghan National Army soldiers clear compounds in the central Helmand River Valley, a volatile area rife with threats from insurgents and terrorists.

The other Marine resting in the photo is Lance Cpl. Matthew Scofield, 19, of Syracuse, New York. Both Marines are assigned to 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to get some sleep -- even for a few hours -- while deployed to a war zone. Having spoken with Lodder, I'm sure he hopes this photo reminds people what thousands of America's brave men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan are sacrificing on a daily basis for our freedom and security.

To Cpl. Lodder, Lance Cpls. Hatley and Scofield, all your fellow Marines, and of course, Blue the dog: thank you for your service and stay safe!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Blinded By the Light

Image courtesy: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Chandler

"We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself." — John 9:21

Shortly after wounded 1st Lt. Timothy Fallon was flown to the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in November 2010, he awoke to a world of darkness.

"I didn't have any light perception at that time," Fallon told the Unknown Soldiers. "I couldn't tell what time of day it was, and I was just very confused."

With both the 24-year-old Marine's eyes badly damaged, all he could see was his mind's eye flashing back to Afghanistan. Fallon thought about Imad, the Afghan platoon commander and friend who most likely saved his life.

"He jumped onto the middle between the canals, and that's where the pressure plate was," the Marine said. "It blew up."

After the enemy improvised explosive device detonated on Nov. 18, 2010, in Marjah — a rural, strategically crucial district in southern Afghanistan's volatile Helmand Province — Fallon, who was responsible for the lives of many Marines, managed to warn them as his eyes bled.

"As soon as the explosion went, I lost my vision," he said. "I reported back to patrol that there was an IED detonation and the Afghan platoon commander was probably hit."

As Fallon heard the piercing sounds of a medical evacuation helicopter while seeing nothing, Imad died on the stretcher next to him.

"You could rely on this guy ... he was a pleasure to work with," Fallon, who still grieves for his friend, said. "It really does suck."

Fallon was taken to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Next was Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and then Washington, D.C.

While adjusting to life in the dark and worrying about his Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine, brothers in harm's way, Fallon asked his doctor for a realistic assessment of his vision.

"He told me from the outset that it doesn't look good," Fallon said. "He said there will be many surgeries, but we're just going to do them and try our best."

For all the milestones since the surgeries, there have also been setbacks, with the worst coming on Dec. 8 and Dec. 27, 2010. On those respective dates, two Marines from Fallon's platoon, Lance Cpl. Michael Geary, 20, and Sgt. Garrett Misener, 25, were killed in action.

"The worst part for me, personally, was that I wasn't there ... I wasn't there with my Marines," the wounded warrior said. "That's always tortured me a little bit."

During these extraordinarily painful moments, Fallon's fiance, Sara, was almost always at the hospital to lift the Marine's spirits. On Nov. 2, 2011 — a date set before he left for Afghanistan — Tim and Sara got married.

"She's been a rock," he said.

As he placed the ring on Sara's finger, Fallon also felt rightfully proud that less than a year after his injury, his platoon was home.

"It was a tough mission to quell this area, and my Marines — with and without me at the helm — did outstanding work and deserve all the credit," he said. "We were able to effectively clean up the area and silence the enemy."

I met Fallon and his wife at a Nov. 29, 2011, event in Philadelphia, where Gen. James Mattis, Commander of U.S. Central Command, approached the wounded Marine to thank him for his service.

Thanks to the resilience of Fallon's spirit, the brilliance of his surgeons, and the wonders of technology, I was astonished to subsequently receive an email from Fallon, whose vision has improved enough to let him complete tasks many of us take for granted, like sending and receiving electronic messages.

"I can see a little bit out of my right eye, especially when I'm outside," he later told me. "My left eye has light perception."

It's impossible to know how much more light will shine into 1st Lt. Timothy Fallon's eyes. But one thing is certain: This brave young man, who plans to pursue his graduate degree, sees a new, promising path.

"I'm not too worried about my future," he said. "The world didn't end; I'm only 24, and I have a long ways, hopefully, ahead of me."


Image courtesy: Yellow Ribbon Fund

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Two Percent

Image courtesy: Sgt. 1st Class Lawree Washington

It's a big weekend in the United States. The NFL playoffs start on Saturday and there are two Republican presidential debates scheduled ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

By the way, tens of thousands of Americans from our cities and towns are still fighting in Afghanistan. As someone who worked in newsrooms for eight years, I can virtually guarantee that you will hear more about the Saints-Lions game and Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney's political advertising "war" than the heroism our troops will display on the battlefield this weekend.

Toward the end of 2011, I put a poll on the left side of this blog that asked "What grade do you give the national media on its coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?" Out of 1,108 responses to this survey, a grand total of about two percent gave the press an A or B. Just under 98 percent of voters gave the media a C, D, or F, with 62 percent of all respondents assigning a failing grade to journalists.

Clearly, this blog's poll results are unscientific. The Pew Resarch Center's study on 2011 media coverage is not. The Pew report found that the war in Afghanistan accounted for just two percent of American news coverage in 2011, which is on par with reporting about the European economy.

Inexcusably, Afghanistan reporting made up even less of overall news coverage than 2010, when a paltry four percent was dedicated to the conflict.

In 2011, the sacrifices of heroic men like Marine Gunnery Sgt. EJ Pate , who was killed trying to disable an enemy bomb in Afghanistan while his equally heroic wife, Staff Sgt. Kim Pate, served in Kuwait, went virtually unnoticed. The Pates gave everything for our freedom, and they deserved better.

Given that the number of Americans killed in action in Afghanistan was only slightly lower than 2010, and that the deadliest month of the entire war tragically took place in August 2011, the coverage decisions made by news executives simply cannot be defended.

What will continue to be defended, however, is freedom of the press. Our men and women in uniform fight to preserve American values every single day in the desolate mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, regardless of what's on nightly newscasts back home. Some warriors, like Marine Cpl. Reece Lodder and Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell, manage to report while they're fighting. These are real heroes of journalism, and you'll never see them patting themselves on the back.

Polls are just polls, and on this website, the "two percent" that will continue to be spotlighted is the roughly one percent of Americans who fight and have fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, as well as the other one percent that is often overlooked: their families. The Unknown Soldiers blog and weekly Creators Syndicate newspaper column, along with the incredible Travis Manion Foundation, which I am honored to work for, will continue to focus on this two percent, which shoulders an incalculable percentage of our nation's burdens at home and abroad.

The state of our economy and the upcoming presidential election are important. Both would be thrown into chaos if terrorists are once again able to attack America. Were it not for champions of freedom like Army 1st Lt. Nick Vogt, who still manages to smile in his hospital bed despite losing his legs in Afghanistan, the limbs of innocent American children would be stolen by terrorists planting bombs on our city streets.

It's a big weekend in the United States. Our nation is at war.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Trane Kept a Rollin'

Image courtesy: Maggie McCloud

Lt. Col. Trane McCloud's
first name is actually Joseph. Yet throughout his life, the loyal son, devoted husband, caring father and valiant Marine went by his middle name. He did so to honor his mother, who always thought "Trane" was the best fit.

"Trane was very special — even his name," Roma Anderson told the Unknown Soldiers. "It just speaks volumes."

As a child, Trane, who dreamt of someday serving on a battleship, was fascinated with building things. One of little Trane's proudest moments was finishing a complicated model of the USS Missouri.

Years later, big Trane's dreams came true when he served aboard the USS Missouri during Operation Desert Storm.

"How many little boys build a model ship and then wind up serving on that ship?" his mother said.

On Dec. 7, 1991 — the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor — Trane helped guard President George H.W. Bush when he boarded the USS Missouri during commemoration events.

"When the (ceremonies) finished, the president turned to Trane," his father, Ron McCloud, explained. "He said, 'I know you'll make a great Marine officer.'"

The first President Bush — a war hero himself — was right. Trane would go on to serve in Bosnia, Somalia and Iraq. But first, after Desert Storm, he became a great husband.

"Meeting and marrying Trane was the best thing that ever happened to me," Maggie McCloud said.

It quickly became obvious that Maggie and Trane were meant to be together.

"They became quite the couple, I'll tell you that," Trane's dad said.

They also became quite the parents.

"He would work crazy hours when he was deployed and when he wasn't," Maggie said. "But no matter what time he got home, if the kids were up, he would run upstairs, and you would hear giggles and the sounds of joy."

Trane was a "big, tough Marine," Maggie said, but also extremely modest.

"He let his actions speak for themselves," she said.

Before eating a meal, Trane would always bow his head in prayer. Before stating his opinion, he would always take the time to listen to other points of view.

Before deploying to Iraq in August 2006, he spent a special day with each of his three children in Hawaii. Maggie said Trane and the kids called it "Daddy day."

After Trane left the Hawaiian paradise for a combat deployment on the hellish streets of Fallujah, Maggie spoke to her husband only once.

"He had faith in me and the family that we would take care of the home front," she said. "He had a very important job — a tough job — and he wouldn't be on the phone calling home when the other guys couldn't do that too."

On Dec. 4, 2006, less than two weeks before his 40th birthday, Trane died in an Al Anbar Province helicopter crash. A fellow Marine and two U.S. Army soldiers were also killed.

For the McCloud children, even five years after the crash, every day is still Daddy day.

"Daddy made the last birthday cake for me," Meghan, who was just 2 years old when her father died, recently told her mom.

"Daddy bought me chewing gum on my Daddy day," Grace, who was 5, told her grandma.

Hayden, who was 7, whistles almost exactly like his dad and displays many similar traits. With each visit, Roma sees more of Trane in her grandchildren.

"It's a loss, but in their little hearts, he's there as big as life," Trane's mom said.

Trane's spirit lives on in his brother, Army Staff Sgt. Richmond McCloud, 41, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

"He figures that by now, his brother would have been in Afghanistan," Ron said. "He has a heartfelt desire to be of service to his country."

Maggie tries her hardest to live every day like the man she'll always love.

"I'm a better person for having him in my life," she said.

Staying true to the name his mom called a perfect fit, Lt. Col. Trane McCloud loved his country, believed in God, and took care of his wife and children. That's just how this Marine rolled.

"Trane was Trane," his mother said. "And he knew who he was."