Trane McCloud was the father of Hayden, Grace and Meghan. He was married to Maggie. He was a Major in the Marine Corps. On Dec. 4, in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, he died in a helicopter crash.
McCloud’s neighbors in Fort Hunt were well aware he was a Marine. It was his posture, said Catherine Schurr, “always that stance.” It was the short crew cut and his reserved nature. “I don’t want to portray him as strict, but that was his personality. He was very much the Marine. That’s how he carried himself.”
But Schurr worried her descriptions were misleading, that they failed to capture the man who had cherished a pink 1959 Ford Fairlane convertible, who had helped her run the boisterous meetings of their Cub Scout Den. Recalling McCloud, she would use four or five adjectives, then qualify them all. His “presence” defied categories. McCloud was a warrior with the courage to lead children.
John Elmore helped McCloud coach tee-ball. He spent 20 minutes on the telephone trying to describe the character of a man he wished he’d known better. Later, unsure he’d made his point, he sent an email. “He just really had a great way of being able to relate to these five-year-old kids and effectively teach them how to throw, and hit, and run the bases, and know what to do with the ball if it came to them. Those things are harder than you would think to teach, and he did it with a patience that most people don't have. He really was great with the kids.”
Elmore recalled that once, as the coaches were “trying to coral a dozen kindergarteners,” McCloud, who was from Tennessee, turned to him and said the effort “was like trying to contain a pond full of frogs.”
SCHURR AND MAGGIE McCloud became friends three years ago when their two sons were in kindergarten. The two families also attended the same Catholic church, Good Shepherd. Last year, She and Trane McCloud were den leaders of a Tiger Cub Scout Den. She said that throughout 2005, Maggie McCloud’s father was sick with cancer. Before he died in January, she had to travel frequently to his home on Long Island . When she was away, her husband took charge of the three children and two dogs. “You just wonder,” said Schurr, “when you’re in situations like that, how you would react as a family. And he was so supportive of her. A very hands-on dad, very involved.”
Schurr got used to seeing Trane McCloud pick up Hayden, 7, from school at Stratford Landing Elementary. It was a family event. Five year-old Grace rode her bike beside her father as he pushed two-year old Meghan in a stroller.
As a leader of the occasionally chaotic Den meetings, Schurr said, she would excitedly raise her voice and join the din, fruitlessly trying to bring it under control. McCloud had a different response. “Trane would just say, ‘You need to sit down,’ and the kids would sit down.” He used his military experience to teach the scouts about respect, Schurr added, about how to honor the uniform they wore.
“I guess the way to explain him is like, he was a quiet presence. He wasn’t loud, but if he looked at the kids or said something to them, they just knew. That’s the kind of presence he was.”
“I was envious of his ability to explain things to a bunch of six year olds in a way I never, ever could have,” said Elmore. “He just made you feel good. He was a good guy to be around. He had a pretty quick wit.”
MCCLOUD, who would have turned 40 on Dec. 14, graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1989 and enlisted in the Marines the next year. He was commissioned as an officer in 1992. He and his young family moved to Fort Hunt four years ago. Soon after moving in to their three-level home in Stratford, they added a white picket fence to the yard. McCloud left for Hawaii in April 2006, to serve as the operations officer for the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. His family joined him in Kaneohe Bay after school let out. They did not sell the house. The family had a few weeks together before McCloud was deployed to Iraq, according to Schurr.
Elmore said that since McCloud left the area, he has not been able to drive by his house without looking at the steep ditch in the front yard by the road. Elmore imagines McCloud as he had often seen him, locked in hand-to-hand combat with his bi-weekly adversary, the lawnmower, conducting a frontal assault on the slope of the ditch. “It was funny to watch him mow that,” Elmore said, “because he went about it the way a Marine would go about it. He was grunting and sweating.”
Schurr said that in the weeks before he left for Hawaii, she frequently found McCloud working in his yard, “trimming the trees, trying to get everything done before he left. He was trying to make it as easy as possible for them to be home by themselves.” When he wasn’t in the yard to work, he was there playing with his children.
“THEY NEVER MISSED CHURCH,” said Schurr. “They were always there. And Maggie was there whether Trane was home and Trane was there whether Maggie was home.”
“It was always a pleasure to run into Trane and Maggie with their three kids in tow, and to exchange a few quick comments with them about how the week went, how the day was going or what might be coming up during the week ahead,” Father Chuck McCoart, the Pastor of Good Shepherd, wrote in an email. “It was easy and beautiful to see that Trane was the center of Maggie’s world, in addition to the many responsibilities she had as a mother and friend to many others in our community.”
“[Trane and Maggie McCloud] volunteered for everything. They were a part of everything their kids were involved in,” said Schurr. And “they adored each other.”
“He was a marine,” said Elmore. “He looked like the all American kid. He was a just a fun guy to hang out with, always very positive, always very upbeat, had a great sense of humor.”
“You just kind of felt patriotic around him,” said Schurr. “You just did.”