Marine recalled as a leader and a jokester
CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — Marine Cpl. James McRae volunteered to go to Iraq so many times that he jokingly threatened to fill up his barracks room on Camp Kinser with sand and sleep on the floor unless the Corps cut him orders.
McRae, 22, a diesel mechanic, was killed July 25 by a homemade bomb planted in the Diyala province of Iraq. Originally a member of Motor Transport Platoon, Headquarters Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, McRae was one of four troops attached to the 12th Marines fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, McRae was driving a Humvee when the bomb went off, killing him and two other Marines. He had been in Iraq since January.
In Camp Kinser Chapel on Wednesday, about 130 people gathered to memorialize McRae as an exemplary Marine who excelled at his duties and a loyal friend who kept everyone laughing.
“He always set the example and led from the front,” said Col. Brant Goddard, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 35. “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 McRae clad in a straw hat or knocking golf balls into the ocean rolled across the screen of a large television, several of his platoon mates were unable to contain their laughter.
The only child of Rhonda and Bill McRae, the corporal joined the Corps on Dec. 10, 2003, in Springtown, Texas, after attending about a year of college on a music scholarship.
At Camp Kinser, 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, 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.
Sgt. Joseph Wunrow, 22, of Berlin, Wis., told a story after Wednesday’s service about some recliners McRae purchased.
McRae went to a military surplus auction on Camp Kinser and saw two recliners attached to a pallet. He bid $5 for them. At the end of the auction, he and his platoon were the proud owners of 36 chairs. Apparently, the two chairs were samples of a larger lot.
“They were all $5, and no one else outbid him, so he got them,” Wunrow said, smiling.
When asked about McRae, Cpl. Lucas Koerner, 21, of Appleton, Wis., smiled and said he was beyond description.
“It would take forever to explain,” he said after the memorial.
McRae’s stateside services were set for Wednesday afternoon. He was to be buried in Jack County, Texas, near a family ranch.