SPRINGTOWN, TX, US
U.S. Marine Corps
CPL, H&S CO, 3D MAINT BN, CLR-35, 3D MLG, OKINAWA, JAPAN
07/24/2007, RUSHIDIYAH, IRAQ
Marine Corporal James McRae volunteered to go to Iraq so many times that he jokingly threatened to fill up his barracks room on Camp Kinser, Okinawa, Japan with sand and sleep on the floor unless the Corps cut him orders. Corporal McRae was an exemplary Marine who excelled at his duties and was a loyal friend who kept everyone laughing.
“He always set the example and led from the front,” said Colonel Brant Goddard, at a memorial service honoring Corporal McRae. “He definitely taught us how to live by the Marine Corps motto, ‘Semper Fidelis.’”
The mood in the chapel alternated between somber and lighthearted. As images of Corporal McRae clad in a straw hat or knocking golf balls into the ocean rolled across a television screen, several of his platoon mates were unable to contain their laughter.
The child of Rhonda and Bill McRae, Corporal McRae was a 2003 graduate of Springtown High School. He grew up learning at an early age how to mend fences, work cattle and how to repair boat and car engines under the watchful eye of his dad. He enjoyed deer hunting and especially loved fishing, whether in the stock tanks on the family ranch or on a charter boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Mrs. McRae explained that James felt a calling to serve his country.
Corporal McRae was very active in his church and enjoyed playing in a local band. Outgoing and never wanting for a date, he played trombone in the Springtown marching band and the jazz band. His skill earned him a music scholarship to Weatherford College, which he attended for a year. He taught himself how to play the guitar and tried to match Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan in a garage band that played at Springtown talent shows. Corporal McRae joined the Marine Corps on December 10, 2003, in Springtown, Texas. In May 2004, he shipped off for boot camp and had been home very little since.
At Camp Kinser, Corporal McRae was known for the stunts he pulled off. Whether it was welcoming new members of his unit by bursting into their rooms in the middle of the night with a ski mask and an electric guitar, or rappelling off the third floor of his barracks to fetch his DVD player that he had just thrown out a window, James McRae was the guy you could never dare to do anything, even in passing, because he would walk off and do it, his friends said. When asked about Corporal McRae, Corporal Lucas Koerner, 21, of Appleton, WI., smiled and said James McRae was beyond description. “It would take forever to explain.”
August 02, 2007
Ma’am and Sir- It is with much sorryow that I send you my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son and my Marine. I just recently returned to the States and I learned of your son’s tragic end the day before I returned from Japan. I had the pleasure of meeting and serving with this young kid as he stood before me in my office, and also the pleasure of seeing him develop into a young man, and one hell of a Marine. I just wanted to let you know that as you grieve you’re not alone. Our Company learned of this and it was like time just stopped. All the Marines in our unit were dealing with the reality in their own way but I just wanted to relay to you and your family that, I know this Marine was your son and nothing will ever fill that void of him being gone but please know that we as his brothers are honored to have served with him and that a small piece of us will never be the same. I’ve spoken with him on several occasions and each time he was a true Marine in every sense of the word. I won’t make this too long but there over 160 Marines in Japan right now that have lost a brother… I am glad to have just met this young man and honored that in life we crossed paths. I know I don’t have to say this but you should be proud of the fact that he had a profound effect on so many people to have been here for such a short time.
Gunnery Sergeant Johnson, 29 Palms, CA.