Sgt. Jason McClary was the driver of a military vehicle in central Afghanistan when he was hit by a roadside bomb last month that fatally wounded him and three special operations troops.
“He got the full blast,” said his mother, JoLynn Maoli, Pittsburgh’s KDKA reported Monday as friends gathered to remember the 24-year-old veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. “I just took a deep breath and fell to the floor.”
A funeral was held Tuesday morning for McClary, who died of his wounds on Dec. 2 at a military hospital in Germany. Burial with full military honors would follow at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies. His was the second funeral this week for a soldier killed by the blast, the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year.
Friends, family and others gathered to remember him at his hometown church on Monday ahead of the funeral.
“This is a very sad day,” Frank Persia of American Legion Post 711 told KDKA. “It’s just a heartache.”
Some, like Cheryl Staubauch, came out to show support for the family of a “local boy.”
“He sacrificed it all, he sacrificed it all for us,” she told the local television station. “He took that step for his country to keep us free.”
Also on Monday, 900 people gathered at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Glen Allen, Va., for the funeral of Green Beret Capt. Andrew P. Ross, media reports said. Ross died of his wounds on Nov. 27, the day of the blast that also killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin.
A Virginia native, Ross is expected to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Jan. 8.
The U.S. Military Academy graduate “went in with his eyes wide open and understanding that his job was dangerous and difficult,” said David Miller, one of his former teachers and a family friend, Richmond’s 8News reported. “Doesn’t make it any easier for any of us that this happened.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered flags to be flown half-staff in Ross’ honor on Monday.
A memorial service for Emond was held Saturday in Southern Pines, N.C., according to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where his father-in-law Barry Feldman is an assistant professor of psychiatry.
Emond, who was on his seventh deployment, was a “consummate soldier who aimed … to make a positive impact in the world,” Feldman said in a university release.
The Green Beret began his more than two decades of service in the Marines and later helped found a veterans nonprofit in Boston. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in January, the release said.
Family and friends raised more than $20,000 online earlier this month for his surviving wife Allie and three young daughters.
On Tuesday, flags were lowered to half-staff in McClary’s honor throughout Colorado, where McClary was stationed with the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade at Fort Carson, by order of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
McClary was one of three soldiers injured in the blast who had been medically evacuated to Germany, where his wife spent time with him in his final moments. She told Pittsburgh’s WXPI that he had suffered a massive stroke from the explosion.
He was the second servicemember from Pennsylvania to die while serving in Afghanistan in recent weeks. Elchin, a member of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., also hailed from the state.
Elchin was remembered in a hometown ceremony earlier this month and is expected to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Members of his squadron also built a makeshift Viking long ship, complete with a dragon’s head on the bow, and gathered to ignite a pyre in his honor. Video of the ceremony was posted on the social media platform Reddit about two weeks ago.
McClary, a father of two, had earned two Purple Hearts and three Army Commendation Medals while serving in the Army since January 2014.
Over the weekend, his wife said on Facebook that longtime friends of theirs back home organized a hockey game to benefit their two young sons.
“I know I didn’t cry when I was there not even an hour ago, but I saved it for when I got home,” she wrote.
He had been a leader of the conventional infantry troops known as “uplift” that support Special Forces teams, said Richard Hass in a Facebook post earlier this month. Hass, who is a master sergeant with 1st Special Forces Group, according to the Green Beret Foundation, said he served in Afghanistan with McClary, who he dubbed “Larry.”
“Larry could always be counted on to volunteer, ask questions … and have a smile on his face,” Hass wrote, saying that the young soldier had a never-quit attitude. “Make [Sgt.] McClary known and never forget his and the [others’] sacrifice.”
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