Sgt. Jason M. McClary, 24, of Export, Pennsylvania, died Dec. 2, 2018, in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained from an explosion Nov. 27 while serving in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Jason M. McClary, 24, of Export, Pennsylvania, died Dec. 2, 2018, in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained from an explosion Nov. 27 while serving in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Sgt. Jason M. McClary became the fourth soldier to die of wounds from a blast last week in central Afghanistan, raising the toll from the deadliest incident for U.S. troops in the country this year, the Pentagon said Monday.

McClary, 24, of Export, Pa., died Sunday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from injuries he received in the Nov. 27 blast, which struck a convoy of U.S. and Afghan forces in Ghazni province’s Andar district en route to battle Taliban fighters.

His wife of five years, who was with him in his final moments, said he was a patient father who loved to work on his Corvette with his oldest son, now 2. He would spend hours holding their youngest, now 11 months old, telling him how much fun cars were and that he would teach him everything he’d need to know.

“We would throw football together, work on cars together,” Lillie McClary said via Facebook messenger on Monday. “He was such a playful person and he was my best friend and we did everything together. I have no regrets with him and he was truly an amazing husband and a huge blessing from God.”

The Pentagon last week identified three other servicemembers killed in the blast as Green Berets Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross and Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, both of the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a special tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

Jason McClary was one of three troops who, along with a U.S. contractor, reportedly had been wounded in the blast but had been evacuated for medical treatment. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

An infantryman, Jason McClary was an up-armored vehicle gunner in Attack Company, said Lt. Col. Christopher Roberts, his regimental commander, in a statement.

“The Rock battalion expresses its deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends tragically affected by the loss of Sgt. Jason McClary,” said Roberts, referring to the battalion by its nickname. “He epitomizes what it is to be a professional, a warrior and a soldier.”

A graduate of Kiski Area High School in Vandergrift, Pa., he joined the Army in January 2014 and deployed to Iraq from May 2016 to January 2017, before being assigned to 1-38th Infantry Regiment in October of last year. He deployed to Afghanistan in April of this year.

“He really the saw the Army as a challenge and he wanted to do all these things,” his wife said. “He wanted to deploy, he wanted to do his job, he wanted to serve his country and he was so proud of himself and he has every right to be. He never bragged about himself, but you could see it in eyes and his smile.”

His awards and decorations include two Purple Heart Medals; three Army Commendation Medals, including one with Valor and one for combat; a Combat Infantry Badge and an Air Assault Badge, among others.

His wife said that he was an underdog with the odds always against him, but he always seemed to come out on top.

“It was the most incredible thing to witness,” she told Stars and Stripes.

The couple had known each other their whole lives, she said, but she couldn’t stand him until their senior year of high school when she noticed he’d matured.

They were slow to date, she said, but it all started when he forgot his pencil in class and asked to borrow her favorite pen. He forgot to return it until the next day, then promptly borrowed it again.

“Aww darn, I forgot my pencil again,” she recalled him saying, beginning what would become a daily occurrence from then on.

It wasn’t until weeks later when he noticed that she’d secretly added her phone number to his cellphone’s contact list that he called her for a date.

“We went midnight bowling and the next day (he) asked me to be his girlfriend and I told him I didn’t want to move that fast,” she said. “Then the next I know, we couldn’t spend more than a day without each other and we were stuck like glue in no time.”

It was another bowling date when he picked her up and swung her around that she first told him she loved him. He responded by telling her he was going to marry her, and he did, on Nov. 14, 2013.

On his Facebook account, Jason McClary posted that she and their two sons were his everything.

Last week, after the roadside bomb attack, Lillie McClary posted on the social media site that she and their two sons were preparing to travel to Germany after her husband had undergone surgery to fix a broken leg, a broken wrist and a wound to his face. He was supposed to go back into surgery to repair his spine and femur, she wrote on Thursday.

“He is still stable and nothing has changed with that,” she wrote. “He hasn’t gotten worse or better but the good news is that is staying stable so that he can go through with all these procedures and hit the road to recovery as fast as possible.”

On Sunday, she wrote an update calling him “the most beautiful person I have ever met and we loved a lifetime’s worth.” She said he would leave a kiss in her hand when he would leave on deployment and told her to save it for the day she really needed it.

“Today was that day,” she wrote. “Thank you for our sons, thank you for being the best daddy and husband ever and thank you for choosing me to live this life with you and to love you every moment of it. You will always be in my heart and our sons will know that daddy was a hero and that you loved them so much. Rest with God my beautiful husband and I will see you soon.”

Over Facebook messenger on Monday, Lillie McClary said that she and the boys arrived in Germany before his death.

“I was able to see him and I held his hand while he passed but I didn’t want my children to see him like that,” she said. “I wanted them to remember the way they’ve always known him and he was always full of life and smiling.”

The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack, which the Pentagon said is under investigation.

Jason McClary’s death brings to 14 the number of Americans who have died while supporting the U.S. operation in Afghanistan this year — 13 of them from combat. Twitter: @chadgarland

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Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. An Illinois native who’s reported for news outlets in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Oregon and California, he’s an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University.

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