The following is the fourth in a series of profiles about Bureau of Diplomatic Security employees, contractors, military personnel, and host nation security personnel who lost their lives providing a secure environment for the conduct of American diplomacy.
Currently, 137 individuals have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty throughout the Bureau’s 100-year history. They are honored on the Diplomatic Security Memorial at DS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. For more information, visit www.dsmemorial.state.gov
On Cockrell Road in Manassas, Virginia, a small building houses the Robert V. McMaugh Memorial American Legion Post 10. With American and POW/MIA flags flying high above it, Post 10 and its members serve as a living tribute to a young Marine who died more than three decades earlier at his post during the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, April 18, 1983.
The terrorist attack against the U.S. Embassy took place six months before the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. service personnel.
Cpl. Robert McMaugh was 21 years old when the blast from an explosives-loaded van took his life as he stood guard inside the front entrance of the embassy. He was one of 63 people killed in the embassy bombing and the seventh Marine Security Guard (MSG) worldwide to die in the line of duty.
Retired DSS Special Agent Richard Gannon, who was the Embassy Beirut regional security officer (RSO) at the time of the bombing, recalled the Marine Security Guards being a special breed. “They are assigned to serve apart from the main body of the Corps often in remote and dangerous locations. To be effective, they must recognize a role in supporting diplomacy yet still maintain physical toughness, discipline, and attention to detail,” said Gannon.
“Cpl. McMaugh combined those qualities with an engaging personality—an ability to carry out his security responsibilities in a manner that spoke to his professionalism and concern for the welfare of the embassy staff,” said Gannon. “He was equally comfortable discussing the latest movie, sports results, or local political developments.” He added women thought Cpl. McMaugh was a charmer—“poised, confident, and just fun to be around.”
“While we might recall his wonderful sense of humor, hearty laugh, and great stories,” said Gannon, “he will always be remembered first as a U.S. Marine who did his duty and served his country in an exceptionally challenging environment.”
Shortly after Cpl. McMaugh’s death, hundreds of mourners attended a memorial service near his home in Manassas. In attendance were his mother, Annie (who passed away in 2004); his father, Earl; brother, Michael; and two sisters, Teresa and Cherie.
After the service, a mile-long procession of mourners left Manassas for a second memorial service at Fort Myer where he would be interred with military honors in Arlington Cemetery. As the police-escorted procession passed through his hometown, the people of Manassas stopped what they were doing and lined the shoulders of the road in respect.
A contingent of about 150 Marines, led by the Marine Corps Commandant, paid last respects during the service at Fort Myer. Navy Chaplain James Mennis delivered the eulogy, praising Cpl. McMaugh for executing his military duties faithfully.
“He gave his life willingly,” said Chaplain Mennis. “He was on duty at his post as he ought to have been. For all of us, that is all that can be asked—no more can be expected.”
A 1980 graduate of Osbourn High School in Manassas, Cpl. McMaugh joined the Marines a few months later. After spending time doing aircraft recovery in California, he volunteered to become an MSG, completed MSG school in Quantico, Virginia, and was sent to Beirut, his first MSG post.
His father, Earl McMaugh, remembers Bobby, as he is called by his family, as “happy, competitive, loved helping out, always wanted the ‘best’ of everything, loved being a Marine, and loved—and was/is loved by—his brother, sisters, and parents.” He described his son as athletic, loving sports, and lettering in soccer, football, and basketball.
One of his favorite memories was when Bobby, a running back as well as the place kicker for his high school football team, kicked a 50-yard field goal against the opposing team.
“He lived a full life while he was with us,” said Mr. McMaugh, who himself narrowly escaped death during the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. “The nose of the downed plane reportedly came to within 30 feet of where I was sitting,” he said.
“Bobby was my ‘rock’ big brother—the best—loved by all who knew him,” said his sister Teresa. “My best memory was the day I came home from school excited about my first school dance (age 14). After I had shared my joy, he (age 16) looked at me—yes, I thought he was going to say something funny—but, no, he said to me, ‘I will take you, as no one is good enough.’ Yes, he took me—even got me a corsage!”
Teresa also recalled the love he shared with his other sister and brother: “He loved his little sister so much he had no problem jumping on his bike with Cherie, a cute one year old, on his back going to the park. Bobby was the big brother Mike always looked up to.” Siblings Teresa, Mike, and Cherie joined in a tribute to their brother: “Bobby, you are loved and will never be forgotten. Sorry we never had the chance to tell you how much we all loved you!”
In the years following Cpl. McMaugh’s death, after Internet blogs grew popular, many fellow Marines and friends shared their own remembrances. “An outstanding Marine he was,” posted a fellow Marine. “He wanted to know all there was to know about being an MSG and guarding the embassy.”
A classmate from the MSG School posted that Cpl. McMaugh “was a Marine with a great sense of humor. In fact, he once jokingly said if he were to be killed on post he wanted a hall named after him so that it would rhyme ‘McMaugh Hall.’”
His childhood friend Anna replied to the post: “This certainly sounds like something that Bobby would say. As a matter of fact, the American Legion Post 10…is dedicated to Bobby. And in the main hall, his uncle had a wonderful portrait painted of Bobby in uniform….so he does indeed have his ‘McMaugh Hall.’”
His friend Anna concluded her online post with the phrase, “A man is not dead, till he is forgotten.” Through the dedication of his family, friends, colleagues, and fellow military veterans, Cpl. Robert McMaugh has not been forgotten.