Saturday, January 07, 2006

Army Specialist Clinton R. Upchurch

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Clinton R. Upchurch, 31, of Garden City, Kansas.

Spc Upchurch was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Jan. 7 during patrol operations when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee and enemy forces attacked using small-arms fire in Samarra, Iraq. -- GARDEN CITY, Kan. - Cindy Upchurch had just put the care package full of cookies and candy in the mail when she heard the terrible news - her soldier son would never be able to open it.

The Army announced Tuesday that Spc. Clinton R. Upchurch, 31, of Garden City, was killed Saturday near the predominantly Sunni Arab town of Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. He was the gunner on one of three Humvees that were escorting higher-ranked officials.

"(The Army representatives) said he died a hero, that he saved his guys," Cindy Upchurch said. "Knowing Clint, I'm not surprised he died defending them. He did his mission. That's just the kind of guy he was."

It was the end, Upchurch said, of her son's lifelong dream. She had tried to talk him out of the service but couldn't, maybe because it was in his blood. His father served in Vietnam; his grandfather and great-grandfather were veterans too.

"It's been something he and I have been fighting about since he was 17," she said. "But I knew he would enlist and I knew he was doing something he wanted to do. He loved the service and defending his country."

The soldier was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee and enemy forces fired on him. He had joined the Army in August 2004 and was assigned to Fort Campbell, Ky., in March 2005. Before that, he worked for the Finney County Sheriff's Office.

"As a mom, you know there's danger involved. But to me, he wasn't in any more danger over there than here," Upchurch said.

Now, Upchurch waits for the body to arrive home and for her youngest son - husband of Kari, stepfather and foster father, high school football player, Christian and fourth-generation Garden City resident - to be laid to rest.

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and there will be memorial services at Fort Campbell and in Garden City.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius urged the state to pray for Upchurch's family and friends.

"He has made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country and he will not be forgotten," she said.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., whose 1st District includes Garden City, praised Upchurch for his sacrifice for his country.

The slain soldier had sent his mother an e-mail at 12:36 p.m. Friday.

"Hi. I love you. Are you there?" he asked.

She wasn't. She had gone to lunch. And she would never hear from him again.

Army Specialist Clinton R. Upchurch was killed in action on 01/07/06.

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