The school year will end early for Enterprise Elementary principal Melanie McClure. She has been called up for active duty and will be deployed to Iraq.

Forty-six year old McClure is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves. She was on active duty shortly after 9/11 but, she was deployed locally. McClure told WJLA-Channel 7 news:

“I’m not sure how to prepare for it. I think that’s probably my greatest challenge — prepare emotionally for all that because it is going to be a long haul,”

Students, faculty and parents, and school system administration are sadden to see the popular principal leave. Principal McClure has been at Enterprise for 2 years. A school-wide celebration was held in her honor this week to give her the proper send off. Superintendent Walts and School board member Julie Lucas were in attendance. Dr. Walts reminded students:

[T]hat it was their job to keep learning in anticipation of their principal’s return.

Bumper stickers have been made up in her honor, according to the story posted on the Prince William County School’s website, which read: “My Principal is a Soldier! Hurry back, Mrs. McClure.”

When is enough enough? Does the army need people so badly that they are now scrounging them out of schools? Do people think this might happen to them when they remain in the reserves? The lady is putting on her game face but she must be dying inside. She leaves a husband and 3 kids behind as well as a career while she is in Iraq.

29 Thoughts to “PW Principal Warrior Heads for Iraq”

  1. Emma

    She should be no more exempt from overseas service than any other reservist. That’s what their military salary and benefits are paying for, and they still sign up voluntarily.

    That being said, thank you, Principal McClure. I will add you to my soldier prayer list.

  2. TwentySomething

    God bless this brave woman. And may He keep her safe.

  3. Moon-howler

    I disagree.

    The military in general needs to revamp how it attracts and retains good people. Current practices have hurt recruitment badly according to everything I have read.

  4. Emma

    Would it be fair to always tap the single men and women for wartime duty and leave the moms alone, while still providing them the training, salary and benefits of military service?

    This reminds me of the outrage of reservists during the first Gulf war, who could not believe they were actually being deployed. They wanted all of the benefits of service but none of the risks.

  5. michael

    People need to understand that when you sign up for military service, its not a free ticket to education, additional income that will have no deployment consequences, and certainly training as a soldier and warrior that will never be needed by the country.

    You have two options, you can resign and be a civilian (which I did after serving in the active duty, fighting a war, and spending 280 days a year away from my family for 20 years). To answer you first question, yes, the active duty units are so beat up trying to support two wars, that the nation needs the guard and reserve units to handle their fair share. Even then, they do not deploy at the same operational tempo (as many times per year) as the active duty units.

    If you don’t want your child, wife, husband, or parents serving overseas, risking death, and potentially getting home either dead or maimed for life, tell them not to enlist or encourage them to resign their comission.

    That said…those who do make such a committment, deserve every bit of personal support and encouragement you can give them as they will need it to get through the long hours of boredom, pierced by moments of sheer terror (when the IED goes off under their humvee.) Support units today are just as vunerable and likely to die in this war as combat pray for this young woman’s safety and the emotional trauma her family will be going through. You can’t possibly understand it, until your own family deals with is agonizing and incredibly stressful for parents and children alike, even if you are single, your immediate family is just as worried and always on edge.

    If you don’t like fighting a war for a foreign countries welfare, far greater than for your own families welfare, then take the issue up with your President and the congress who support the nation being in wars for “questionable national interests”.

    Personally I think we’d be far better off if we just hired mercenaries, from the countries we are concerned about to avoid killing our own innocent young men and women, who could care less about helping another family fight their own political, religious war.

    The war over “belief” systems is far more important to win anyway, and should be done with the state department and not soldiers.

  6. michael

    One other point, when the unit gets ready to deploy, their is all this guidiness and mixed emotions, fear of the unknown, but elation, pride and excitement of doing something patriotic for your country, you think for your family, and all the recognition you get from the public as your unit readies. (my last war I had this happen over the Christmas holiday, it was terrible).

    When you get their, you are disoriented, naive, and fearless, thinking that nothing is going to happen to you, and you are not really sure any of it is real anyway. You find the culture fascinating.

    Within 1 month, you see people die, reality sets in, fear sets in and boredom takes its toll. Your family letters and any care packages become the highlights of your otherwise miserable life. Within 6 months you hope and pray to can make it home before being killed, and you start to make every day as cautious as you can get away with, and still not let your buddies down who are depending on you for their own survival.

    In a real shooting war, the thousand yard stare makes you a shell of what you, were, you will never see life the same again, you will value every moment you have with your family if you make it back, and you will cry like a baby everytime you go to the vietnam memorial, because of the emotional scars you will carry with you the rest of your life.

    This experience is likely about to happen to Ltc McClure. Like I said pray for her safe and honorable return to her family and friends. Then thank your lucky stars it is not you and your family going through it.
    It this was a jsut war I would say something patriotic, but I have become delusioned at the wisdom of the people running our country over the past 20 years, who have never been to war, have NONE of their sons and daughters serving in wars, and can’t possibly understand the consequences of our actions on the people and nations we invade.

  7. michael


  8. michael

    One other comment…men and women are extremely equal in warfare, they both share the same sacrifices, strengths, weaknesses, fears and dependance on others to survive it. A bomb or bullet is non-dicriminatory, so remind yourself of that when you start to think about who deserves to receive the most praise for fighting in, dieing in, or making it home from a war zone.

  9. kelly3406

    MH, I agree that news articles paint a picture of doom and gloom for military recruiting and retention. I can tell you, however, that the Air Force Reserves are manned at over 100% and that 2-3 people usually apply for every open position.

    The Air Force also maintains a civilian jobs registry that Reservists are required to update annually in order to monitor the number of people that are called up from a particular organization. The purpose of the registry is to prevent an organization from being decimated by excessive call-ups (e.g. three police officers called up out of a total force of seven in a small town).

    I can assure you that a single principal called up in Prince William County will not harm the school district. In fact, I think it is a good civics lesson for her elementary school students to witness her deployment. As for her spouse and children, most of the middle- to high-ranking officers and enlisted in our military have spouses and children. So she is not being asked to do anything that many, many others have not endured.

    I do honor her service and wish her well during her deployment.

  10. kelly3406

    Michael, I am intrigued by your comment that “you can resign and be a civilian (which I did after serving in the active duty, fighting a war, and spending 280 days a year away from my family for 20 years).” After 20 years, you should have been eligible for a military retirement, which includes military pay and healthcare. Surely you did not resign if you were eligible for retirement?

  11. Moon-howler

    Thanks for that update Kelly. I am glad to hear that the air force is sensitive to emptying out an organization. I know my insurance agent has had several deployments.

    I think Americans are just tired of this war. Ms. McClure isn’t the first one to be pulled out of the county, that’s for sure. But this thing has been going on for a long time. Of course many of us have read stories about how families have had to go on food stamps because the spouse was pulled back into active duty at a much lower pay scale. I doubt that will happen to Mrs. McClure though.

    And it is fairly disruptive to start pulling principals out of schools. That is definitely a regime change. I guess the military can grab you until you die if you have signed on the dotted line.

  12. kelly3406

    MH: I appreciate your concern for military families. But the story on the Prince William County site that you linked to states that Mrs. McClure has been in the Army Reserve for over 20 years. That means that she has been eligible for retirement, but decided to stay in (probably because she wants a bigger retirement pay check). If she did not want to deploy, then she should have retired. I believe that it is VERY important for her take her turn, because otherwise someone else will have to go in her place; and in all likelihood that someone has already deployed (and left his/her family behind) three or four times.

  13. Lucky Duck

    I agree Kelly3406 that she should take her turn, regardless of her civilian position. I have had several co-workers do three tours of call up duty as a reserve, including parents. We band together and make sure their families’ needs are met while the one parent is deployed, everything from yard work, household needs to money – the way it should be.
    I admire and thank Ms. McClure for her service and I wish her and her family all the best.

  14. Moon-howler

    It is my understanding that people have not been allowed to retire. I also have been told that you can retire and still be called up.

    That is the part I object to. After 20 years, haven’t they gotten their pound of flesh yet? Now, if she is staying in for the money, fair game. She keeps her name in the pot. However, if she is one of those people who attempted to retire and has not been permitted to, then I have totally different feelings about it.

  15. Moon-howler

    And I feel badly for anyone having to go over to Iraq of Afghanistan regardless of active duty or not. I know its their job. I still don’t wish it on anyone. Pardon me, I am rewatching Band of Brothers. It always changes me for a while.

  16. Moon-howler

    I find it amusing that several people seem to want to fight with me over this story thread. I put it up as a cummunity story actually, then thought about the people I personally know who had their retirements delayed or frozen, even though they were eligible in years to retire. I don’t know if that is still going on or not.

    I know that is a famous trick the army pulls. It happened to my mother and she was a civilian.

  17. kelly3406

    Moon-howler :
    I find it amusing that several people seem to want to fight with me over this story thread.

    That’s because you make it sound like the Army is victimizing Mrs. McClure by calling her up. It is true that after a unit is ordered to mobilize, stop-loss can prevent someone from leaving. But I do not think that one is prevented from leaving the Army before his unit is mobilized.

    By the way, stop-loss actions extended my active-duty tour in the 1990s.

  18. Moon-howler

    I worked with several people who were not allowed to retire because of the Iraq war. I don’t understand the ins and outs. I guess my feeling still is, after 20 years and having been called up once, when does it end. I don’t think she is being victimized necessarily. If not her, then someone else will have to go. I would feel differently if I knew she had attempted to retire and was not permitted to. Then I would feel like she was being victimized.

  19. You Wish


    A principal I worked with several years ago was a reservist and was called to serve. It’s happened more times that you think – and it’s not as disruptive. Schools have assistant principals and interim principals that will step in to take her place until she returns.

  20. Gainesville Resident

    As a defense contractor – I have come in contact with some people in the reserves that also appeared not to be able to retire. Seems like rules were changed after Iraq war – but not 100% sure of that. In my case, I just have some anectodal evidence. I would think that if you have put your 20 years in, and want to be allowed to retire you should. Seems wrong that in wartime those people are NOT allowed to retire – if that’s the case. Maybe it is not everyone, but certain people who are considered to be in positions where need is high, or something. The military works in mysterious ways – that is for sure and not everything they do makes sense (I could tell a few whoppers from my recent jaunt to Ft. Hood, TX for a big test of the system I designed).

  21. I was at the RPV Convention yesterday and there were several very touching moments, The UVA Acapella group singing the National Anthem along with 14,000 People was very moving, As was the Father of a Soldier that died on the USS Cole that told about how Bob McDonnell helped Honor His Son by having the Wall of Honor built on the Capitol grounds.
    And Jeanine McDonnell who served in Iraq for two years Introduced Her Dad for His nomination acceptance speech.
    And the Best speech (After McDonnells) was by Kuwaiti Immigrant Adnan Barqawi who is now serving as a Marine Cadet. It was very thoughtful and substantive.

  22. Moon-howler

    Kelly, how did you feel about that? I would think it would depend on where I was in my career and how long I had been in.

    You probably know the answer to this…how long is it possible to be called back up?

  23. kelly3406

    I would prefer not to force ANYONE to stay in the military against his/her will. I definitely was not happy when I was placed on stop-loss. I do not know the specific rules in the Army — the Air Force and Navy have not used stop-loss since 2003. In a perfect world, stop-loss would NEVER happen.

    But consider the following hypothetical choice: As a staff officer in the Pentagon, you have been tasked to fill a critical position in Iraq that requires a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC). At your disposal, you have a LTC who has already deployed overseas three times, been away from home for three of the last five years, and whose spouse has threatened to divorce him if he deploys again. There is a bright, young Major who could do the job and has only deployed overseas twice, but he is in Command and Staff college. If he does not finish school, he probably will not get promoted and the shortage of LTCs in the career field will be exacerbated. You also have a Reserve LTC who has never deployed overseas, but she recently put in her papers to retire. Your last choice is to leave the position unfilled, and then hope and pray that nothing bad happens and the Army does not get another black-eye on the front page of the Washington Post.

    Which choice would you recommend, MH? I would choose to send the Reserve LTC who has never deployed overseas.

    After 7 years of war, the question is not how do I treat people well? The question is, which is the least bad option? Even if the force were expanded tomorrow, these problems could not be solved immediately, because it takes a long time to grow Lieutenant Colonels.

  24. Gainesville Resident

    Interesting post kelly3406 – quite a dilemma there as to how to keep the officer ranks full during wartime. Indeed, it is a tough position to be in, with the all-volunteer military. It is true, from my own experiences as a civilian working in the defense industry – it takes a long time to create a good LTC. My main customer for my piece of the project I’m working on is an LTC so I speak from experience. He’s a pretty good one actually, although a bit of a handful to deal with at times. But he’s a smart guy, a EE grad and very technical oriented.

  25. Moon-howler

    Kelly, I don’t know. Probably a good thing I am not in the military. I have heard reservists aren’t as prepared as regular but i suppose that also depends on who you ask.

    How long can the military call you back up?

  26. Gainesville Resident

    Don’t reservists have to go to 2 weeks a year of training? Or maybe I’m mistaken about that. I think though to be an “active reservist” you do – as that seems like what a few of my coworkers who are in reserves (and one of whom got called up for duty in Iraq) have to do. Maybe Kelly can elighten us.

  27. kelly3406

    Moon-howler :
    How long can the military call you back up?

    I am not an expert on this, but I think that eligibility for call-up is more a function of status than length of time that one can be called up. As long as someone is in the Individual Ready Reserve (which means inactive Reservists) or Selected Reserve (which means active Reservists), I believe that he is eligible to be called up. It takes Presidential Reserve Call-up Authority to recall people in the Individual Ready Reserve. Every person that joins the military incurs a Military Service Obligation, which is usually 8 years. The person usually serves for two to four years on active duty, then can be transferred to the Reserves for the remainder of his obligation. Until the military service obligation is completed, the person can be recalled for deployment. A person already in the military can lengthen his military service obligation by accepting certain training and education opportunities.

    As mentioned by GR, active Reservists do indeed train during a two-week tour each year, plus one to two training days per month. Active Reservists are usually chosen ahead of inactive Reservists for deployment, because they are better trained and sometimes more experienced than their active-duty counterparts. It is not unusual at all for Reserve units to win competitions against active duty units, because active-duty units often have a much higher percentage of very inexperienced first-term enlistees. Mrs. McClure is an active Reservist.

  28. Moon-howler

    Thanks. As long as she had not retired, I guess she goes where they send her.

  29. Gainesville Resident

    Thanks for that interesting info in response to my question Kelly – I just got back to reading this thread now. Sort of is what I thought but it is good to know all the details.

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