Subscribe
Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's portrait at his memorial gave evidence of the smile that friends and colleagues said could ''light up a room.'' The memorial on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy, came 26 days after Clayborn, 36, was found dead in his barracks.

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's portrait at his memorial gave evidence of the smile that friends and colleagues said could ''light up a room.'' The memorial on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy, came 26 days after Clayborn, 36, was found dead in his barracks. ( Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes )

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's portrait at his memorial gave evidence of the smile that friends and colleagues said could ''light up a room.'' The memorial on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy, came 26 days after Clayborn, 36, was found dead in his barracks.

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's portrait at his memorial gave evidence of the smile that friends and colleagues said could ''light up a room.'' The memorial on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy, came 26 days after Clayborn, 36, was found dead in his barracks. ( Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes )

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's boots, beret, dog tags and rifle stand at the front of the room where his memorial was held on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy. Clayborn, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was found dead of unknown causes June 1, 2018 in his barracks.

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's boots, beret, dog tags and rifle stand at the front of the room where his memorial was held on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy. Clayborn, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was found dead of unknown causes June 1, 2018 in his barracks. ( Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes )

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's father, Howard Clayborn, right, and his brother, Karega McCollum, traveled from their homes in Milwaukee, Wis., to attend his memorial. The memorial for the paratrooper was held on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy.

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn's father, Howard Clayborn, right, and his brother, Karega McCollum, traveled from their homes in Milwaukee, Wis., to attend his memorial. The memorial for the paratrooper was held on Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy. ( Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes )

Lt. Col Andrew Baker, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Delphin Romani, the commander and command sergeant major, respectively, of the 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, pay respects to Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn at his June 27, 2018 memorial on Caserma Del Din. Clayborn, 36, was found dead June 1, 2018 in his barracks.

Lt. Col Andrew Baker, left, and Command Sgt. Maj. Delphin Romani, the commander and command sergeant major, respectively, of the 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, pay respects to Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn at his June 27, 2018 memorial on Caserma Del Din. Clayborn, 36, was found dead June 1, 2018 in his barracks. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

VICENZA, Italy — The 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade mourned the death Wednesday of one of their own at a memorial service at Caserma Del Din.

Staff Sgt. Krasean Clayborn was remembered as a charismatic mentor who, as a career counselor helping soldiers make life-changing decisions, happily went the extra mile.

He was known, speakers repeatedly said, for his signature smile — “a contagious grin that never seemed to leave his face,” said Capt. Mike Basie, Clayborn’s chaplain. “It seemed to shine out of his soul into mine.”

Clayborn, 36, was found dead in his barracks June 1 of still unexplained causes, although authorities said there was no evidence of foul play. The death remains under investigation.

Clayborn, from Milwaukee, Wis., enlisted in the Army in 2010 after several years in the Navy. He served two combat tours in Afghanistan as an infantryman and then became a career counselor in 2015.

“He was very talented,” Lt. Col. Andrew Baker, commander of the engineer battalion, told the mourners. “Staff Sgt. Clayborn was born to serve others.”

Clayborn also was a popular local DJ known as DJ Legend and Mr. Mayhem.

Several soldiers said that Clayborn could always be counted on to show up when they needed a friend.

“He was the type of person I could call, and he would answer,” Spc. Dasean Payton said. “He was the older brother I never had.”

Clayborn was also hailed as an exceptional basketball player.

“He was the most charismatic, happy, positive person I’ve ever met in my life,” Sgt. 1st Class Marquis Walker said.

Clayborn was married, with a wife and 12-year-old son.

Basie said that Clayborn’s reservoir of empathy, patience and encouragement made him perfectly suited to his job helping soldiers decide important questions about their lives and futures.

He said the best way to honor him was to emulate him, to reach out to others and to “live by the power of the smile.”

But after Clayborn’s first sergeant called his final roll call and a bugler played taps, tears began falling.

The sobs of Valdemetreia McCollum, Clayborn’s mother, filled the room. “My baby,” she cried. “My son.”

montgomery.nancy@stripes.com Twitter:@montgomerynance

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up