Cpl. Jason S. Clairday

(reprinted from Marine Corps News, January 14, 2005)
The resolve of Youngblood: Marine joins family his brother died serving

David and his older brother Jason were cruising the small-town Arkansas streets one night, looking for something to do. The truck came to a halt when the headlights caught an armadillo. The boys jumped out, chased it down and put it in the truck. David braced the animal to the floorboard, and after some devious planning, and a coat of purple spray paint, the brothers pulled off the ultimate prank by putting the four-legged Barney in the high school principal’s truck cab. David and Jason ended up with a $450 upholstery bill.

“We always did crazy stuff like that,” said 21-year-old Pfc. David C. Youngblood, Platoon 2040, Company E. “It was a small, kind of redneck town, and it was hard to find fun.”

Youngblood was at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for field training when he learned that his 22-year-old brother, Cpl. Jason S. Clairday, fell victim to an Iraqi sniper Dec. 12, 2004.

“My drill instructor told me I needed to talk to the first sergeant. When I was on my way to talk to him, the drill instructor told me, ‘Everything will be OK,'” said Youngblood. “(Co. E) 1st Sgt. (Thomas) Ryan asked me if I knew Cpl. Jason Scott Clairday, and my heart dropped into my stomach. I already knew what he was about to say.”

Co. E arranged for Youngblood to go back to Salem, Ark., on emergency leave for his brother’s funeral. Before he left, Youngblood told the drill instructors he wanted to address his platoon, and the DIs complied.

“The news of his brother being killed was a first for me,” said senior drill instructor Staff Sgt. Mark Mann. “He handled it very well.”

Said Youngblood: “I told the platoon to think about what happened and that they all need to take this training seriously. It never really affected us, you know? But this hit home, not just for me, but for the platoon. They are my family, and so was my brother. We all lost a brother December 12th.”

Mann gives merit to Youngblood’s address: “His speech really motivated the platoon,” he said. “It brought them all closer together and showed them that they can’t just go through the motions here. Everything we do is for a reason.”

According to Youngblood, his brother died for a cause that was worthy. Clairday, an infantryman, was with his squad clearing out a building in Iraq. A sniper from another building hit Clairday in the left arm. The bullet went through his arm into his chest, piercing vital organs.

“The platoon and company were very supportive,” said Youngblood. “I think my brother’s death and my talk with the platoon motivated them. When I got back from leave, several recruits who usually had their heads down, seemed a lot more positive. It’s not really hard to be motivated by that. Jason was the main reason I joined the Marines. He’s the reason I joined the infantry.”

Youngblood and Clairday, brothers only a year apart, did everything together. They were both avid hunters and deer hunting was their favorite activity. Both were popular guys and baseball standouts at their high school; Youngblood was all-state, all-region MVP and held the school batting title all four years. Clairday was a solid player also. They loved to run around in the pick-up truck, living a small-town, high-school athlete’s dream, only slightly toned down from the movie “Varsity Blues.” Clairday graduated and came to the Corps. Youngblood had another year in high school and his own plans.

“After that prank we played on the principal, my senior year was hell,” chuckled Youngblood. “Jason went off to the Marines, and after I graduated, I went to college.”

Youngblood played baseball for a semester at North Arkansas College, but switched his focus to academics. His main studies were history and coaching. But he was restless.

“After about a year, Jason came home on leave, and I noticed what the Corps did to him,” recalled Youngblood. “First of all, he was bigger. He also seemed more mature and just smarter about things. I could see his discipline and leadership qualities. At first, I had no intention of joining the Marines. But seeing Jason – mixed with my desire to get the hell out of Arkansas and travel – I reconsidered.”

Youngblood signed the dotted line and came here last winter for recruit training.

“When Youngblood got here, he was a little shy,” said Mann. “As training progressed, he came out like a ball of fire. We had to make him a squad leader, and when he got back from emergency leave, he was even more focused on becoming a Marine.”

Youngblood said he didn’t have any trouble with the physical training in boot camp, but it was a mental challenge.

“Before Jason died, the hardest thing here was not moving around or scratching my face or talking whenever I wanted to,” said Youngblood. “They rearrange you here, and it’s great.”

After three months of recruit training, Youngblood is off to the School of Infantry at Pendleton. From there, he said, he will most likely go to the battlegrounds that claimed his brother.

“I’ll probably go to Iraq,” said Youngblood. “It’s fine with me. I’m not really out for revenge. I want to serve the best way I can, and that is to get in the fight. Jason died for a cause we both believe in. It’s war. It’s not personal. Nobody should really want to go fight in a war. God knows I don’t. But I do want to do what’s right.”

Youngblood seems to have coped with the loss of his brother, and he said he is clearheaded and ready to do his duty. Fortunately, there are no armadillos in Iraq. Commanding officers and first sergeants can be less forgiving than high school principals.