Sunday, July 04, 2010

Army Spc. Clayton D. McGarrah

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Clayton D. McGarrah, 20, of Harrison, Ark.

Spc. McGarrah was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died July 4, 2010 at Arghandab, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

Family remembers fun-loving, energetic ‘Clayboy’
By Chuck Bartels
The Associated Press

HARRISON, Ark. — Army Spc. Clayton Duane McGarrah lived only 20 years and served only about a month in Afghanistan, but he was remembered at his funeral July 14 for a life filled with love for his family and friends, and for his devotion to duty.

In a letter read at the service that McGarrah wrote to his wife, Emily, upon his deployment, he first joked about getting a much-needed vacation. Then he said, “I’m going to miss you very much. I’ll be home before you know it. Today marks our one-month anniversary.”

McGarrah wrote the letter June 7. He was killed July 4.

Speakers told a packed Faith Assembly of God Church in Harrison that McGarrah lived a very full life, spending time with his wife, parents, siblings and many nieces and nephews, hunting and vacationing.

The Rev. Arlis Thrasher said McGarrah, who went by the nickname Clayboy, had two goals: marriage and military service.

“He got those,” Thrasher said, and noted that much of the service — filled with country songs and slideshows of family photographs — had been planned by McGarrah and his wife before his deployment.

“Just in case,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher told the mourners to consider July 4 a day to remember McGarrah’s life, not just the bitter memory of his death.

“Our lives are like a mist that appears over these Ozark valleys,” Thrasher said. “Don’t waste another minute of the life you have.”

McGarrah was a member of 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was killed when his unit, deployed to southern Afghanistan, was attacked by insurgents with bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

McGarrah’s body was returned to Harrison on July 13.

His father, Orville “Bo” McGarrah, briefly addressed mourners.

“Clay loved all you guys,” he said. “He loved the military. He had 20 years. God had other plans.”

The soldier’s uncle, the Rev. Dewey McGarrah, told the congregation that McGarrah was high-spirited as a young boy.

“There were times we thought he was too rambunctious,” he said. “Oh, but he grew up to be a gentleman, he grew up to be a fine young man.”

The uncle said he has watched friends and family try to be strong since word of McGarrah’s death. But he said it was OK to cry and grieve.

Dewey McGarrah told mourners that “Clayboy” lives on in their memories and called his nephew a hero.

“A hero is a man who is looked up to for the brave and noble things he has done. I am proud to be your uncle and I salute you,” he said, gesturing before the flag-draped casket.

McGarrah was honored posthumously with several military awards, including the Bronze Star for valor. Brig. Gen. Clarence Chinn, commander of the 82nd Airborne, presented the medal to McGarrah’s wife and parents at the end of the service.

McGarrah was buried at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Harrison.

Army Spc. Clayton D. McGarrah was killed in action on 7/4/10.

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