SALEM, Ark. (BP)–The war in Iraq has hit home for members of First Baptist Church of Salem, Ark., after one of their own was killed in the U.S war on terrorism.
Marine Cpl. Jason S. Clairday, 21, was killed by enemy fire Dec. 12 in the Anbar province near Fallujah during what military officials called a “security and stabilization operation,” according to a report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Clairday and his wife, Sarah, members of First Baptist, were married July 30, just weeks before he left for Iraq.
“Jason was a loving, compassionate and dedicated young man,” said John Hodges, pastor of First Baptist. “He was the type of boy that any parent would be glad to call their child.”
Prior to enlisting in the Marines, Clairday had been very active in church life, Hodges said. He made a profession of faith while a member of the church youth group, sang in a traveling quartet and was involved in many youth ministries and activities.
“Jason was always willing to give hugs to the elderly … or help out in any way he could,” he said. “He once asked me, ‘What do I do to send my money home to the church for tithes?’ He was always thoughtful about those things. He thought more of others than he did of himself.”
Clairday last spoke with his wife on Dec. 3, Clairday’s mother-in-law, Cindy McCullough, told the Democrat-Gazette. He told her he was scheduled to go into Fallujah for 10 days and then be given a two-day leave. He was killed a day before he was to leave the area, she said.
“He never really spoke about what was going on there,” said McCullough, also a member of First Baptist. “He always talked about coming home to his family. He wanted to go to college and maybe go into law.”
Hodges said Clairday entered the military after high school to prepare himself for college and planned to return home to attend Arkansas State University at Mountain Home.
He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., before he was sent to Iraq. During his military service, Clairday was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.
Clairday attended Salem High School in Fulton County, where he played baseball. He enlisted shortly after graduating in 2001, Hodges noted, and his enlistment was scheduled to end this coming spring.
Hodges said church members are providing food, support and prayers for the family.