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In Memoriam

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Cpl. Anthony McElveen

(reprinted from BrainardDispatch.com, December 3, 2005)

Little Falls Marine killed in Iraq

Anthony McElveen graduated from high school in 2003
By JODIE TWEED
Staff Writer

Anthony McElveen was proud to be a U.S. Marine serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq.

While home on leave last May, the 21-year-old Little Falls man visited his former teachers and students at Little Falls Community High School and told them about the positive work he and his fellow servicemen and women were doing for the Iraqi people.

Now the Little Falls community is mourning the death of a hometown son.

McElveen was among 10 Marines killed and 11 injured Thursday by a roadside bomb near the Iraqi town of Fallujah. The U.S. military said Thursday’s attack was the deadliest attack against American troops in Iraq in four months.

McElveen, a 2003 Little Falls graduate, was one of two Minnesotans killed in that attack. Also killed Thursday was Scott Modeen, 24, a 2000 graduate of Cooper High School in New Hope. Their deaths brought to 30 the number of Minnesotans who have died in the Mideast during the war in Iraq.

Both Modeen and McElveen were in their second tours of duty in Iraq and served with deep pride, relatives and friends said.

The Marines said they were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

According to a past edition of the Morrison County Record, McElveen, the son of Tom and Deb McElveen of Little Falls, married Carrie Cluka, also a Little Falls High School graduate, on Feb. 20, 2005. His wife is serving in the U.S. Navy.

McElveen, whom friends called “Ant,” was described by many as a “good kid” who exemplified what it means to be a Marine.

“He seemed to be the type of person who could take negative stuff and turn it into a positive,” said Little Falls boys’ hockey coach Tony Couture. McElveen was one of his former goalies. “He was good in school and liked by everybody.”

Randy Tabatt, who was McElveen’s social studies teacher at Little Falls High School, described McElveen as a mature young man, determined to do what it took to be a Marine.

“You could just see the pride and the focus he had,” Tabatt said.

Tabatt said McElveen returned to school several times after graduation to report on his progress in the Marines.

“He was fantastic,” Tabatt said. “He was in tiptop shape and very proud to be serving his country. The kids were absolutely mesmerized with the way that he carried himself.”

Tabatt last spoke with him in June when McElveen’s younger sister graduated.

“I was always happy to have him come back and talk to us because he really was a fantastic man,” Tabatt said. “He was friends with everybody that met him.”

Tabatt said McElveen’s mother called to tell him of her son’s death early Friday morning.

“It’s a blow to the community. But Tony, like most young men and young women, he meant the world to his family, and they were extremely proud of him for what he had accomplished already,” Little Falls Police Chief Mike Pender told KMSP-TV.

While in high school, McElveen played hockey, was active in martial arts and played alto saxophone in ninth-12th grades, performing in the marching band and wind ensemble.

Dwight Nelson, Little Falls band instructor, said McElveen always seemed to seek out discipline in his life, by developing his body and mind through martial arts, hockey, performing in the band and eventually in the military.

Nelson said McElveen spoke to his band students last May before his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was impressed with how mature and confident his former student had become during his time in the Marines. McElveen brought maps of Iraq and gave students a history lesson about the country as well as explaining what he did and what he witnessed while in Iraq.

“He exemplified a perfect Marine,” said Nelson. “He was a real proud individual. I think he finally found his purpose in life and the military provided that for him. He was just a really neat young man.”

The discipline he learned in the marching band won him compliments from superiors in basic training, Nelson said. On one of his trips home, Nelson said, McElveen thanked him for what he had taught him.

Nelson said his students were devastated to learn Friday of McElveen’s death. The band instructor and his students plan to dedicate their Dec. 13 band concert to McElveen.

“I think it brought a whole new perspective on life to the kids,” said Nelson. “We heard about the 2,000-plus deaths (of military personnel in Iraq) but when you hear it is someone you know and worked with, it hits the kids hard. Everybody is just a name and a face on the news but all of a sudden it’s someone they met just a few months ago and he’s not here anymore.”

McElveen worked at Lin Furniture in Little Falls, delivering furniture during high school, from March of 2002 to May 2003. Lin Furniture owner Linda Burggraff said McElveen was a normal teenage boy, often dressed in baggy jeans, before he entered the Marines. When he stepped into her store after his first tour of duty in Iraq, he had transformed into a mature young man.

“He was just so proud to be in the service and proud to go back to Iraq,” said Burggraff. “He was just a nice, young kid.”