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 death.
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
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He died one year and three weeks ago tomorrow. Here come the Oscars. Will they read the name of Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin? Remember him while we dish on Beyonce's dress and Borat's one-liner. Why doesn't anyone want to hear about our heroes? This man was serving in the National Guard. Military families are left to struggle while Washington lobbyists spend obscene amounts of money. They spend it on Republicans and Democrats both, this isn't about politics--there is something wrong in our country that we don't take care of the loved ones of those serving in our names. Last New Years Eve, his daughter was counting down until she saw her dad again. I just ache for her, and for every little girl whose dad won't be coming home. I realize that she's 19, but she'll always be his little girl--she and others like her should be ours, too. Support them. Any way you can.