Recent graduate receives Bronze Star for valor in Iraq

Since graduating from the University in May 2001, Jon "Tyler" McGaughey has confirmed time and again his place among the few and the proud.

As a second lieutenant in Operation Iraqi Freedom, McGaughey led a platoon of Marines through enemy fire, arranged for the evacuation of wounded individuals and calmly avoided confrontation with anti-American demonstrators.

On Sept. 5, McGaughey's "aggressiveness, determination and steadfast devotion to his Marines" were recognized with a Bronze Star for valor.

According to Maj. Fritz Pfeiffer, Marine officer instructor for the University's Naval ROTC program, the Bronze Star is the nation's fourth-highest award.

Pfeiffer noted that McGaughey's specific award includes a combat "V," a symbol of valor demonstrated in combat.

From March 20 to April 10, 2003, McGaughey played an important role in securing a bridge over the Saddam Canal, capturing an enemy mortar section in a small village outside of Baghdad and gaining U.S. control of the Al Azimiyah Presidential Palace.

McGaughey's Summary of Award Submission said "the securing of the Al Azimiyah Presidential Palace gave the 5th Marine Regiment a combat outpost from which to break the back of the Saddam Hussein and Ba'ath Party regime."

A politics major from Stafford, Va., McGaughey followed his father and grandfather into the Marines upon receiving his commission in May 2001.

McGaughey's father, John McGaughey, retired from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel and said his experience serving in Vietnam gave him insight into the danger of his son's situation.

"I saw [that] the life of a lieutenant is sometimes short, so I suffered a lot of anxiety from the point of his departure until he arrived home in May," John McGaughey said. "Every mom and dad, if their son or daughter is out there, is going to have some sleepless nights and upset stomachs."

Tyler McGaughey's mother Susan spoke of similar angst.

"My gosh, he was just a year out of college and, to be thrown into that environment ... he might have thought he was prepared and he might have been prepared, I just felt he was very young," she said.

While his parents battled worry at home, the younger McGaughey was involved not only in strenuous fighting but also attempts at diplomacy.

On patrol in Baghdad, his platoon came across a crowd of 1,000 anti-American demonstrators. Despite the tension, Tyler McGaughey is noted to have acted with "professionalism, leadership and knowledge of the rules of engagement" in continuing his patrol and keeping "a dangerous situation from exploding."

Both parents said they were extremely proud of their middle child's Bronze Star and happy that all of the Marines in his platoon arrived home from Iraq alive.

Tyler McGaughey currently is a first lieutenant in Southern California's Camp Pendleton. He is awaiting deployment to Okinawa, Japan and could not be reached for comment.

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