ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Staff Sgt. Jordan Avery, who fought alongside Washington National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Matthew McClintock, described the day last month that took their special forces unit to a small town in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province called Marjah.
As their ammunition supply dwindled and rescue missions failed, the group grew increasingly desperate.
McClintock’s wife, Alexandra, told the Army Times that during the firefight her husband left a compound in order to find a helicopter landing zone so that the injured soldier could be evacuated.
“It was on this day, in the face of intense fire, I witnessed Matt displaying the most selfless acts of undaunted courage that one could imagine,” Avery said. “All these acts were an attempt to not only save a wounded friend but ultimately our entire team.”
McClintock, a veteran Green Beret, was the first American serviceman to die in Afghanistan this year. The 30-year-old Albuquerque native and graduate of Eldorado High School was killed Jan. 5 during his third combat tour.
“Matt sacrificed his life so that others may live,” Avery said.
He leaves behind his wife and infant son, Declan. The family lived in Des Moines, Wash.
Hundreds filled the Kiva Auditorium on Sunday afternoon to hear friends and family share stories about the quick-witted, sarcastic, hardworking, determined soldier.
When Master Sgt. Jeffrey Oates called McClintock’s name during a last roll call at Sunday’s service, cries pierced the silence, which was interrupted by a three-rifle volley followed by taps.
McClintock joined the Army in 2006 as an infantryman. He was selected for the Army’s Special Forces School in May 2009. He left active duty and joined the Washington National Guard in August 2014 and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group in March 2015. He was promoted from staff sergeant to sergeant first class posthumously.
His former supervisor Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Vounov remembered that during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2012-13, McClintock loved interacting with locals, giving candy and toys to children he encountered. On a deployment to the Philippines in 2013, the unit handed out supplies to people affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
“It was backbreaking work, but Matthew stayed motivated, because the lives of others meant so much to him.”
McClintock’s younger brother Kevin Williams told the group about the time the two wore bathrobes and took plastic light sabers to a “Star Wars” movie premiere.
“We looked like very casual Jedis,” Williams said.
As a kid, his brother loved Cinnamon Toast Crunch, watched cartoons after school and spent evenings playing Legos.
Williams described the day that his brother left for the Army, how he thought it meant that he’d never see him again. He missed him tremendously.
Of course, he saw his brother many times over the next 10 years. When Williams went to visit him in Washington, the two hiked up Mount Rainier. The competitive brothers raced on the way down, tripping as they sprinted through the snow and drawing stares from other hikers.
Williams said McClintock married two years after that trip, and three months ago, had a son.
“He didn’t have a whole lot of time to be with his son, and that’s what’s killing us all.”
Sunday’s celebration of McClintock’s life will be followed by a Unit Memorial held in Washington state. McClintock will be interred at the National Cemetery in Arlington in coming months.