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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