The Department of Defense recently announced the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, 22, of Augusta, Georgia
Spc. Clayton died Tuesday, July 2 in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident that occurred during a training exercise in Qaraghahi, Afghanistan.
Her mission is ended and she has earned her rest.
Please take a a minute to join us in remember the life and honoring the sacrifice of this soldier who died while serving in the uniform of our country.
WRDW-12 Augusta, Fort Meade Facebook Page, Afghanistan-Iraq Memorial Wall 2012 Facebook page, Freedom Remembered, The Augusta Chronicle, www.army.mil, Combat Camera Weekly, Chase Clayton facebook page, Hilda Clayton facebook page
Hilda graduated from Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2009. Then she attended Augusta Technical College, with a double major in business studies and cosmetology. While in Georgia, she met Chase Clayton, a 2009 graduate of Cross Creek High School in Augusta. They were married on December 29, 2011.
Hilda Clayton attended the Fort Meade Defense Information School and graduated in July 2012. After graduation from Defense Information School she was assigned to the 55th Signal Co., 21st Signal Brigade. Clayton served as a combat documentation specialist, which means she took official photos for DoD records of combat operations, security missions, and other activity on the battlefield.
SPC Clayton’s photos told the story of the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan as well as the maturation of the Afghan National Security Forces. Her images have been featured on Department of Defense and Department of the Army websites as well as in print stories read around the world. Right before she died, her work was featured on Combat Camera Weekly as Best Imagery of the Week for June 22-June 28. The first 15 photos at this link are hers.
On July 2, 2013, Hilda I. Clayton died in Jalalabad as a result of injuries received when a mortar system failed during an Afghan National Army training exercise in Qaraghahi.
She was only 22 years old.
Three soldiers of the Afghan National Army were killed in the same explosion, and 11 other Afghan soldiers were wounded. Referencing the Afghani deaths and injuries, Col. Bill Benson said: "This is a tragedy for the ANA 201st Corps as much as it is for us."
The incident is under investigation.
At the time of her death, SPC Hilda Clayton was attached to the Army's 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (nicknamed "LongKnife"). In an open letter to the LongKnife Brigade, Col. Benson offered his thoughts and prayers for Clayton’s family, friends and colleagues:
"During an Afghan National Army training exercise on 2 July, a mortar weapon system failed resulting in a catastrophic explosion. Killed in the explosion was SPC Hilda Clayton of Augusta, Georgia. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and her friends during this incredibly difficult time.
Clayton was a combat camera specialist attached to the LongKnife Brigade to document the development of the Afghan National Security Forces and she died doing exactly that. Though not assigned directly to LongKnife, SPC Clayton embodied the Cavalry spirit. She was always willing to take on any mission and she pursued every opportunity to tell our story with her images. In the short time that she was with LongKnife, she earned the respect and admiration of everyone she came in contact with.
Our deepest condolences are with her husband, her parents, and her family and friends at home. Though nothing can fill the void that has been left, I hope that there is some consolation in knowing that SPC Clayton was a valuable member of the LongKnife team and that she made a positive difference every day that she was with us."
A family friend posted at the Augusta Chronicle: "Her family is very proud of her and heartbroken. Evelyn, Josie, Jesse and Chase my thoughts and prayers are with you. RIP Hilda you were a beautiful, smart and brave young lady. It has been my honor to have known you and your family."
Other friends poured out their grief on Facebook: "Omg omg omg omg. I don't even know what to think right now.... My heart of hearts goes out to you Chase and of course to my Hilda. Gosh I loved that girl, she truly was the greatest... Omg omg omg omg I just can't wrap my head around this... I'm so so so so sorry Chase. I know she was your world...... I love you bro and I'm sending you all my prayers and hugs... We all love you girl... My heart is breaking"
Clayton’s mother, an Augusta area resident, was too distraught to speak with the media Thursday, officials at Fort Gordon said.
Hilda's husband, Chase Clayton, is also serving in the Army. He had been eagerly anticipating a transfer to Ft. Meade, where he and Hilda could be stationed together. Chase left Ft. Stewart Georgia for Ft. Meade just two days before his wife was killed.
He posted the following message for family and friends online: "Please do not mourn. Celebrate my angel/wife getting her wings. That's what she would want. Be strong. I am, because she would hate to see me fall apart. Thank you."
Hilda Clayton’s body will probably be brought back to Georgia, but funeral plans have not yet been made public by her family, officials said.
“Rest in peace my beautiful wife,” her grieving husband wrote in another online post. “Of course I'm gonna hurt, but she passed doing what she loved for her country. I love and miss you baby. See you in another life. Rest in paradise my love.”
I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor, respect and remember. Its title is a reminder that almost every day a military family gets the terrible news about a loved one.
Diaries about the fallen usually appear two days after their names are officially released by the Department of Defense, which allows time for the IGTNT team to find and tell their stories.
Click here to see other entries in the IGTNT series, which was begun by i dunno, and is maintained by Blue Jersey Mom, CalNM, Chacounne, Ekaterin, i dunno, JaxDem, Joy of Fishes, maggiejean, monkeybiz, noweasels, Sandy on Signal, SisTwo, SpamNunn, TheFatLadySings, twilight falling, Wide Awake in KY, and me, TrueBlueMajority.
If you're willing to write a diary for this series, even once every other month, please leave a message in this diary and contact Sandy on Signal at sandy3660 AT comcast DOT net.PLEASE note that these comments may be read by friends and family who are overcome with raw grief. It is our custom here to leave politics aside as we offer our remembrance tributes with respect and compassion.