This Week at War: Four Patriots
The Stream's weekly look at the sacrifices of U.S. troops and military families.
As the military community mourned last week’s tragic deaths of three U.S. service members in Afghanistan, another week at war brought more heartbreak. On Monday, the Pentagon announced that a fourth warrior wounded in the improvised explosive device (IED) attack had died from his injuries.
The fallen soldier is the sixth U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan since the start of November.
As we pray for America’s newest Gold Star families, here is a solemn look at the lives and legacies of the four American heroes who died as a result of the November 27 IED attack in the Andar District of Ghazni Province.
U.S. Army Sgt. Jason M. McClary, 24, Export, Pennsylvania
“He wanted to deploy and do his job and serve his country,” Sgt. Jason McClary’s wife, Lillie, wrote to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after her husband. The loving father of young sons passed away Sunday at a military hospital in Germany.
Anya Sostek reports that McClary had completed a prior deployment to Iraq shortly before heading to Afghanistan in April. In less than five years of military service, the soldier earned two Purple Hearts and three Army Commendation Medals. His military success was apparently a result of the same positive attitude he had displayed since childhood.
“He was always happy, always had a smile on his face,” McClary’s high school principal, Chad Rowland, told the newspaper.
Sergeant Jason M. McClary will be laid to rest in Pennsylvania.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, Hookstown, Pennsylvania
About an hour away from Sgt. McClary’s hometown, another tight-knit Pennsylvania community gathered Thursday to honor the lone airman killed in the attack, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.
“His dedication to freedom and serving his country; that’s what drove him,” the airman’s grandfather, Ron Bogolea, told The Times. “I think that’s what’s helping carry us through the grief.”
Jared Stonesifer reports that Staff Sgt. Elchin resolved to become a special operations warrior at age 14. After many years of rigorous training, he accomplished his goal.
“If you were out on a mission and ran into trouble, Dylan was the guy on the ground engaged in the battle who would call in air strikes, helicopters, bombers,” the fallen hero’s grandfather, himself a veteran, told the newspaper.
Staff Sergeant Dylan J. Elchin will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
U.S. Army Capt. Andrew P. Ross, 29, Lexington, Virginia
Like Staff Sgt. Elchin, U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Ross was a special operations warrior. The Green Beret came from a long line of military service in his family, according to The Roanoke Times.
“Words will never express the love and respect I have for my son,” the fallen soldier’s father, Stephen Ross, wrote on Facebook. “He was a man among men and he stood for all that makes this country the greatest ever.”
Henri Gendreau reports that Capt. Ross, whose dignified transfer ceremony is shown above, had just gotten married in February. He was a West Point graduate who “was trying to make this world a better place, in the job that he had in the special forces, was very real,” family friend Robby Jones told the newspaper.
Captain Andrew P. Ross will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric M. Emond, 39, Brush Prairie, Washington
A third special operations warrior, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, was on his seventh overseas deployment when he was killed in the terrorist attack for which the Taliban has since claimed responsibility. According to the Boston Globe, the Green Beret co-founded a non-profit organization, Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, before tragically becoming a fallen hero himself.
“He was an unbelievably caring man,” executive director Dan Magoon told the newspaper. “He cared about this country, he cared about his service, most of all, he cared about his wife and his kids — his family.”
The suffering of the families, friends and fellow soldiers and airmen of these fallen warriors is unimaginable. As they weep at upcoming memorial and burial services, we must pray for the Lord to give them comfort. In the truest sense of the word, these men were patriots. We can never afford to forget what they were willing to sacrifice for our freedom.
Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of three books about military heroes: 8 Seconds of Courage, Brothers Forever and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo.