Born and raised in Jefferson County, Missouri, Marine Cpl. Justin McLoud graduated from Hillsboro High School in 2006 as a star athlete, diehard Cardinal fan, and true American patriot. While he could have received a college scholarship to play baseball from any of a number of schools; upon graduation he chose, instead, to enlist in the Marine Corps to serve his country in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Upon enlisting, Cpl. McLoud deployed with Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment – the Darkhorse Marines. In his first tour, he deployed to Iraq on his way to three separate tours in support of OIF/OEF.
By late 2010, Helmand province in southern Afghanistan was described variously as “the Wild West,” “the most dangerous place in Afghanistan,” and, simply, as “hell.” The British had been there for four years, but could only fight the Taliban to a bloody stalemate. With the British leaving, the Marine Corps called on the Darkhorse battalion to move in. With them, Cpl. McLoud deployed on his third tour, ten days after the birth of his son, Desmond.
Upon their arrival, the 3/5 Marines found that Helmand province was even more dangerous than expected – the Taliban had stockpiled weapons and created fortifications, awaiting the Marines. On October 13th, the day Darkhorse officially assumed control of the area, four Darkhorse Marines were killed when a blast ripped apart their vehicle. Three more Marines were killed the next day after stepping on IEDs – in just two days, Darkhorse had lost seven of this country’s finest men.
On December 10, 2010, Cpl. McLoud and his squad were on a typical mission – patrolling a maze of narrow dirt roads on foot. After periodically taking enemy fire on their patrol, Cpl. McLoud’s squad was crossing a bridge when a fellow Marine stepped on the pressure plate of an improvised explosive device (IED). Cpl. McLoud stood ten feet away – on top of the IED’s charge. The force of the blast resulted in the traumatic amputations of both of his legs and later the amputation of his severely wounded left arm.
A British helicopter transported Cpl. McLoud to Camp Leatherneck where medical crews stabilized him for a flight to Landstuhl, Germany. Four days later, he awoke in Bethesda Naval Medical Center where he spent six weeks recovering before returning to San Diego where he lives today – making steady progress in his rehabilitation – day after day, step after step.
It was with tremendous heartbreak that we lost Cpl. McLoud to an illness in 2020. We look forward to continuing to honor his service and sacrifice by supporting his son, Desmond, in the years to come.