Friends fondly remember fallen soldier they called 'Peanut'

BAGHDAD — Three days before Pfc. Clinton Tyler McCormick died, he talked to his battalion commander about his baby.

McCormick, 20, was talking about his beloved gun, the M240B he manned for his platoon sergeant’s Humvee, according to Lt. Col. James Wolak, of the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, part of the 2nd Infantry’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

McCormick, who was on his first Army deployment, died holding his “baby” on Dec. 27 in the streets of eastern Baghdad, felled by an armor-piercing roadside bomb.

Wednesday night, McCormick’s friends and fellow soldiers gathered to remember the soldier they called “Peanut” because he looked like the guy on the Planters Peanuts jar, members of his platoon said.

Instead of being insulted, McCormick embraced his new moniker — as well he should have, said his company commander, Capt. Samuel Fuller. “It was not derogatory,” Fuller said. “It was a term of endearment.”

The name fit him so well, even Fuller, as a commander, had to struggle not to call McCormick by his nickname, he said.

McCormick was wiry, standing 5 foot 5 inches and weighing 120 pounds soaking wet, according to his platoon mates. But he was also “strong as an ox and as hard as nails,” Fuller said.

His life at home “was no bed of roses,” according to one soldier. When he enlisted on Aug. 25, 2005, he was looking for a new life and a second family — and found both, his friends said.

McCormick loved the Army and Army life and was eager to get everything right. “You wanted to compete with him, not to beat him, but to match his efforts,” Fuller said. “I was in awe of him.”

McCormick trained as a combat engineer, and joined the 2nd Infantry Division’s Alpha Company, 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, at Fort Carson, Colo.

Eleven months later, in October, Peanut was in Iraq, where his platoon leader, 1st Lt. Randy Tau, made him his personal Humvee gunner. When told, “his face became overwhelmed with the pride of a warrior,” Tau said.

“He used to tell me in Iraq, ‘Sir, my job is to protect you, and to make sure you get to go home.’ ”

Handling a weapon almost as large as he was, Peanut did that job through 35 combat missions.

Every morning, Peanut would fill a 1½-liter water bottle with black coffee and show up with it in hand, ready for the day’s work, said Sgt. Gareth Kellogg, one of the company’s noncommissioned officers. “I didn’t think someone that small could physically handle that large a dose of caffeine,” Kellogg recalled.

Despite his small stature he loved to “wrassle,” often playfully tangling with soldiers and NCOs almost twice his size, his friends said.

They might have to pull him out from the bottom of a pile of soldiers, but Peanut always came up with a grin, undefeated.

“Private McCormick died doing his job, protecting me and the rest of our crew,” Tau said. “For that I will forever be humble and thankful.”

He is survived by his mother, Lori McCormick, his father, Kevin McCormick, a sister, and brother.