Thursday, November 04, 2010

Army Sgt. Jason J. McCluskey

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jason J. McCluskey, 26, of McAlester, Okla.

Sgt. McCluskey was assigned to 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Nov. 4, 2010 at Zarghun Shahr, Mohammad Agha district, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

The McAlester community is mourning the loss of a fallen hero. Twenty-six-year-old Sergeant Jason McCluskey was killed in Afghanistan last week after insurgents attacked his unit.

Sergeant McCluskey's high school wrestling coach and mentor describe the soldier as quiet and hardworking. "He was a brawler," said Coach Brent Grilliout, McAlester varsity wrestling coach. "People in the wrestling world would say he's a brawler. A legal brawler. He was tough."

The last time McAlester High School wrestling coach and teacher Brent Grilliout saw Jason McCluskey was during wrestling season. "Came up to the old gym. There he was like he was ready for practice, except he was in his uniform," the coach said. "He told me that day, he said, ‘I'll take care of conditioning for you.' I said ‘all right.'"

McCluskey graduated from high school in 2004 and in 2006 hung up his wrestling singlet - for army fatigues. "He was kind of stoic," Coach Grilliout said. "Didn't surprise me at all that he chose the military."

"He really wanted to make a better life for himself. He wanted to do something with his life that he saw getting into the military as a pathway that he would have to do that," said Joe Brawley, McAlester High School psychologist

School psychologist Joe Brawley saw McCluskey's hard work and determination down at Mike Deek Field. "He would be down there running. He was getting himself in shape for the military and studying for the ASVAP and he was working in the oil fields to support himself at the same time. So he was a highly motivated young man," Brawley said.

"He certainly was a credit to his family and our community, and my thoughts are certainly with his family," said Joe Brawley, McAlester school psychologist.

"As his senior quote he put, a James Dean quote: 'Dream as if you will live forever. And live as if you will die today.' I thought that was pretty profound and really represented Jason," said high school wrestling coach Brent Grilliout.

"Sergeant McCluskey was a true hero to us all,” said First Sergeant Randolph Delapena, his Company First Sergeant. "He was like my son that I saw come up the ranks to become an elite non-commissioned officer. He was the edge of the sword, he led from the front, and he cared deep down for not only his Soldiers, but every Soldier he came in contact with."

McCluskey: From high school to hero
Letter to the editor
Sr. Airman Wes Carter Vance AFB, Enid The McAlester News-Capital Thu Nov 11, 2010, 06:43 AM CST

McALESTER — Editor: I don’t remember most things about high school. Specifically, I don’t remember most of the things my teachers tried to teach me. I don’t think I could figure out a chemical equation if my life depended on it (sorry Mrs. Sloan), but I do remember the people I grew up with.

I remember standing in the hall before class, football games, dances and myriad social engagements that high school offers. I don’t think I was ever na├»ve enough to think that it would last forever, but I don’t remember thinking about the possibility that someone in my class might die young.

A week ago today the unthinkable happened. A member of my graduating class, Jason McCluskey, was killed serving his country in Afghanistan.

Today is Veterans Day, and Jason’s death leaves us with a cold reminder that we are still at war. The pain of his death does not stop at the border of a country, but it travels into the hearts of the members of the family and the community that grew up with him.

There is nothing that can be done to undo this tragedy. However, we can spend this day in reflection, prayer and service.

Arthur Ashe said that true heroism is remarkably sober, very “undramatic.” It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

Saying that Jason served his country takes the personal touch away from his sacrifice. He was serving you and me, and his service extended to all Americans at the greatest cost.

As a veteran, I can tell you that holidays are hard when you are deployed. However, for the mother and father who lost their son, this holiday season is going to be horrific.

Don’t let his loss go unnoticed. As a community, get behind his family and let them know how much his service meant to you. As parents, tell your children the story of his heroism. As teachers, tell your students about his bravery. As his friends, grab a beer and toast to his courage.

Army Sgt. Jason J. McCluskey was killed in action on 11/04/10.

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