Rod Jetton: Remembering A Hero, Part 1 — Losing a Good Friend

Watching our military personnel return from Iraq was very heartwarming.  I appreciate so much all they did to end a military dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and free the people of Iraq, but having them home and out of harm’s way is a relief. 

Five years ago this month I lost my best friend from my Marine Corps days.  We were in the same company as young lieutenants and we traveled the world together.  He helped me raise my kids, and I watched him find a wife and start his own family. 

Sadly, five years ago I was in Arlington Cemetery in one of the saddest days of my life.  I was there as a good man who gave his life for our country was laid to rest.  I did my best to comfort his wife and children but there is really no way to explain the loss we all felt that day.

As the war has dragged on most of us Americans have enjoyed our lives and faced very few hardships.  We clap when they announce appreciation for our servicemen and women on a plane or at a sporting event, and we are sad when we hear about a bomb killing some of our troops.  But really there are many days when my trivial problems crowd out any time to think about the troops who are taking risks and enduring hardships, while I enjoy my friends and family safe at home.

I have a small cameo bracelet I made out of 5-50 cord that I have worn since December 2006.  Each time I see it I think of Trane and his family.  This year when I went to Hawaii I toured the U.S.S. Missouri and looked at the 5-inch gun turret that Trane served in.  I thought of him and Maggie that day, but there is not a day goes by that I don’t think of Trane and wonder why someone as good as him had to leave us so soon.   I don’t understand his loss or the loss of so many other heroes, but I do appreciate their sacrifice and pray for their families. 

This Christmas I thought you might enjoy learning about a man you unfortunately will never get to meet.  As you read about his life and sacrifice, please take a moment to remember all the families who have lost a loved one in these wars and say a special prayer of safety for those still in Afghanistan fighting to keep the terrorists at bay.   

This is a copy of a four part story I wrote after Trane’s death in December 2006.   

Part 1- Losing A Good Friend

It has been a rough week for me.  I received some terrible news about the war in Iraq.  My best friend from my Marine Corps days was killed this week.  The Corps lost a good Marine, I lost a good friend, his wife lost a good husband and his kids lost a great father. 

I met Lieutenant Trane McCloud back in 1992.  Trane was my best friend in A Company First Battalion Eighth Marines.  We were both brand new LT’s in a rifle company that was training to be deployed for a six-month float to the European theater. 

Life was great back then.  We were both tough, in shape and ready to take on anybody that threatened America.  We had some great Marines in our unit, and by the time it came to ship out, we all thought we were ready for anything.  After spending long days and short nights preparing for combat we were hoping to see some action after we crossed the Atlantic.  The war in Bosnia was raging, and a few Marine units had been involved.  We all hoped that by the time we returned from our tour we would get lucky enough to see some action and become real combat veterans.

Things started out quiet for us. Bosnia stayed calm, and we did our military exercises and made our port calls just as planned.  Trane and I would go on tours in each country we stopped at.  I have pictures of us in France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, and Morocco.  Those were some great times that I will never forget.  We spent countless hours playing spades and poker on ship.  Trane was patient enough to teach me how to play backgammon but I very seldom beat him.

Then in October things changed.  Down in Somalia, the Rangers were killed and drug through the streets.  That got our attention.  Like most Americans we were shocked that a third world country like Somalia could do something like that to our fellow Americans.  We were mad, scared and wondering what would happen to us.

Our unit was not in charge of the Indian Ocean because there are always two big Marine task forces somewhere in the world keeping America safe.  One takes the east and Atlantic, and the other takes the west and the Pacific. 

Unfortunately, when the Rangers were killed the task force out west was on their way home.  Their replacements were not scheduled to ship out for a week so they took our group and split us in half.  A Company was in the half that went through the Suez Canal and was stationed off the coast of Somalia. 

Trane was our veteran.  He had been an enlisted Marine before college and served on the USS Missouri during the first Iraq war.  He was a great resource for all of us when it came time to plan and think about going ashore.  We had strict rules of engagement, which we felt put our men in undue danger.  Trane would get all the men together and go over scenarios and possible courses of action.

We sat off the coast of Somalia for a month.  We were told we were going ashore twice.  They would feed us steak and eggs, load us up in our amtracks with live grenades and ammo and then pull the plug one minute before launch.  We must have received every shot known to man.  After all the health briefings, I was more afraid of the diseases down there than of getting shot.

Looking back, I am glad we didn’t go ashore.  Back then, we all wanted to make them pay for killing the Rangers, and we all thought we were the best.  I remember talking to Trane about Somaliaand the loss of the Rangers.  We both agreed Somalia was not worth dying over.  We dreaded the thought of having to write a letter home to the parents of one of our men if we would have lost someone down there.  But we knew it was our job to do what the President ordered. 

Trane used to quote a poem to me.  I can’t remember who wrote it, but he said it was for soldiers: 

“Ours is not to wonder why, ours is just to do and die.” 

I never liked it much because I didn’t plan on dying, but his point was that we were in the military, and we had to follow orders.  As I said, thankfully we were never sent ashore, so all our men returned safely and we finished out the rest of our float peacefully.  We were all glad to be home and see our families.  I knew I was ready to get out of the Corps and go back to civilian life but Trane wanted to stay in a make a career out of it.

I think I will close for now, but if you will allow me I will spend next week telling you about Major Trane McCloud’s life his family, his career and his death.  It is a story of a good man who lived a good life and I will miss him terribly, and all of us here in Missouri should appreciate his sacrifice as well the sacrifices of all those who have given their lives to protect us.

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