TUNNEL HILL, GA, USA U.S. Marines LCPL, 1ST BN, 8TH MAR, (TF 1/8, 1-3 BCT, II MEF FWD), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC RAMADI, IRAQ 01/19/2008
James M. Gluff was from Tunnel Hill, Georgia and went by his middle name, Michael. He grew to 6’3” tall and was known to his comrades as “Big James.” He was born April 19, 1987 and left behind a widow, Hope and son, Michael Wayne who was 14 months old at the time of Big James’ death. Michael and Hope had been high school sweethearts and they married in 2006 after both began training in the Marine Corps.
A protector of others, Michael often came to the rescue of his classmates being bullied. He was this way his whole life, always standing by those he loved. One friend said Michael defended him in the ninth grade against bullies. “I was puny back then,” he said. “Michael, he kept the boys away.” Often, he just had to stand next to a smaller boy to protect him. “I think he was pretty much everybody’s protector, in one way or another,” related another friend.
Michael graduated in 2005 from Northwest Whitfield High School with a dual diploma, which means he completed both college-track and vocational course work, according to his high school principal. He was described as a model student with good grades and attendance. One of his teachers has fond memories of Michael and says he would come by after class and offer his help to the teacher. He says when Michael told him his plan for the military, he knew the smart, polite student would do well. “His character and his attitude, his positive outlook, he was just always eager to learn and help.”
Michael wanted to be in the military since he was six years old, and being in the Marines on a real mission fulfilled a life-long dream. Michael died January 19, 2008 during combat operations in Anbar province. His mother said he was killed when the Humvee he was in hit an explosive device. Riding in the gunner’s turret of the vehicle, Michael was the only Marine killed in the explosion, she said. “Two or three were hurt bad, but they told me because of his Hummer getting blown up he had saved 25 Marines,” she said. “His brothers (are) what he always called them.”
Hope says she wants to raise their son Michael Wayne to be just like his father. “He was a great man, he had a great personality and he was really funny. He strived for perfection, very strong willed and determined,” she said. “My husband is a hero, a true hero,” wrote Mrs. Gluff on her MySpace page, which she has transformed into a memorial to her husband. “I am so glad my son looks and acts like him. I would not have it any other way.” Michael was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.