Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Lest They Be Forgotten – Memorial Ceremony

Written by  November 30, 2005

Three days before Veterans Day, in the small town of Atchison Kansas, friends, families and soldiers, both past and present, met for one purpose. That was to honor two fallen soldiers, who one year ago that day upheld the highest Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.

A memorial ceremony was held on November 8, 2005, one year after SFC Clint Wisdom and SGT Don Clary were killed on the airport road in Baghdad. At the ceremony two bronze field crosses bearing the names of each soldier were dedicated in their honor so they will not be forgotten. On that day, one year ago, as part of a security detail escorting VIPs on the most dangerous section of road in Iraq, their convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber. Wisdom, Clary and Nathan Gray drove their armored suburban into the attacking vehicle to protect the rest of the convoy. The attackers’ vehicle exploded and destroyed their suburban and killed both Wisdom and Clary. Nathan was blown out the back of the vehicle and survived but with many serious injuries. The blast blew out all the windows and flattened all the tires on the VIP’s suburban as well and the quick reactions of the rest of the security detail allowed them to succeed in their mission to protect the package.

Following are a few words and letters that reflect the dedication and honor of these soldiers.

'God Bless You Clint'

One year ago today, Christmas Eve, Clint came back to the Horton Armory to tell us good-bye. I'll never forget the look in his eye and the conviction in his voice when he promised us he would take care of the B Battery men and bring back as many as he could. My reply to him was 'Make sure you are one of them.' In turn Clint replied, 'I'll try but if I have to sacrifice my life to save others you know I will.' Which we knew he would if he needed to and he did. Clint saved many lives that day fighting for what he and this country stands for. Thank you, Clint. You will never be forgotten. The Horton Head Start children and staff are very proud to have known such a wonderful man and a true hero. To Clint's family: May God comfort you as only He can. Please know that Clint was loved by many people and will never be forgotten. We thank God for Clint and for allowing him to be a part of our lives. Let us all strive to live the kind of life that Sgt. 1st Class Clint Wisdom fought and died for.'
Paula Jacobson of Horton, Kansas

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“I’m here today because Sergeant Clint Wisdom and Sergeant Don Allen Clary are not. At this moment a year ago Clint Wisdom and Don Allen Clary and their PSD (Personal Security Detail) team were leading a protective convoy to take us to the embassy. Their mission within the ISG (Iraq Survey Group) was to protect life. At this moment, a year ago an unknown youth probably not Iraqi, was waiting in a red KIA automobile. The car had been loaded with artillery rounds, wired to detonate when he pushed the button. Somewhere nearby an older man who had controlled this youth in the last few days lurked. A man channeled this youth, like others before him to commit his life to destruction. He had filled this young impressionable mind with some poison that led him to use life to guide a bomb to kill others. At this moment a year ago, on the airport road, the best and the worst of humanity intersected. A twisted youth accelerated his vehicle toward my suburban in a fit of destruction. Don Allen Clary, Clint Wisdom, and Nathan Gray unhesitatingly reacted to preserve life, and drove their vehicle to block the car bomb. The blast was huge, chaos erupted as impulses to destroy and to protect clashed. I owe the rest of my life to them”

Charles Duelfer, Director, Iraqi Survey Group.

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Janet & Kristy,

First, let me say my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families every day, but especially on 8 & 11 Nov. My name is Bob Willis. I am a Department of Defense civilian, a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Senior Executive Service. As such, Clint and Don provided me personal protection during several missions down Route Irish from Camp Slayer to the US Embassy in the Green Zone.

In addition to this note, I have attached a photo, which Jeff believes you may not yet have seen. I believe this is the last photo taken of the Sector Control Point – Baghdad (SCP-B) Personal Security Detail (PSD). Of course, you will recognize Don in the red shirt and Clint in the baseball cap to the center-rear of the group. The person I was replacing asked for the photo, Mr. Jacques Grimes, and he is center-front in body armor. I am standing to the right, with a backpack over my shoulder, also wearing body armor. SCP-B was scheduled to have an official photo taken with the General on the afternoon of 8 Nov 04, but as that did not happen, this might be among very few photos showing the entire PSD.

This photo was taken after my first trip down Route Irish. I was nervous before the trip, as you might imagine, but your loved ones were true professionals and their no-nonsense attitude reassured me that I was in good hands. When we arrived at the Embassy grounds, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. Clint immediately appeared by my side as I exited the vehicle and said, “I’ve got you Sir. You’re with me.” With his back to me, scanning the area like a Secret Service Agent, he escorted me from the vehicle to the Embassy building. I remember thinking at the time how impressive he was in taking charge of the situation. Having spent 20 years on active duty as an Army officer with elite forces, I’m not easily impressed – but I assure you I was impressed.

By 8 Nov 04, Jacques Grimes had departed, and I was serving as the last Director of Operations for the Iraq Survey Group. I was informed by my staff that Mr. Duelfer would be traveling to the Green Zone and the Chief of my Chemical Weapons Branch asked to take advantage of the trip by adding a collection mission. This would reduce the number of missions required by the PSD that day. Naturally, I concurred and we chose the members of the collection team. Many were very young female analysts with no military, much less combat experience. Less than one hour after the convoy departed, an explosion could be heard. At such times, everyone fell silent waiting to determine if the phones started ringing. If the phones did not ring, it was outgoing fire, or there were no injuries. Suddenly, numerous phones started ringing and my heart sank. Members of my staff began to arrive in my doorway in waves with continuous reports. First, there had been an “incident” but casualties were unknown. Then, it had been a bomb, there are casualties. Finally, it had been a suicide vehicle bomber and there were definitely fatalities. It seemed like hours before the chief of my collection team appeared in my doorway. I remember the brief relief I experienced when he told me none of the collection team I had just sent into combat were killed, replaced by the immediate anguish when he continued by telling me Clint and Don had been mortally wounded.

I was among those sobbing in formation as there was no answer to the roll call when Clint and Don were called. I type this note through tears which I know will always arise when I think of that day and marching slowly forward to salute the rifles, boots and helmets. Although I believe you have raised sufficient funds for the fitting tribute Mr. Richard Rist sculpted for Clint and Don, I will be sending a small donation to the Wisdom-Clary Memorial Fund for other expenses which I’m sure will arise in the coming years.

Today, Veteran’s Day, and on Memorial Day, the general public makes gestures to recognize the service and sacrifice of our service members and veterans. However, considering the size of the US population very few people have actually paid the supreme sacrifice you have paid, and I think fewer people still have experienced what I experienced. Few people in their lives will ever encounter soldiers as committed to duty, honor and country as Clint and Don. I know now with absolute certainty what Clint really meant when he said, “I’ve got you Sir. You’re with me.” He meant he was willing to protect not just our country, but me personally with his life, because that was his duty on that day. I am humbled by men of such courage. They will always be my personal heroes and always in my prayers. God bless you…Bob”

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Veteran’s Day Letter for my girls 2005:

Sweethearts, I have just returned from Atchison, Kansas and I wanted to let you know that the two heroes I wrote to you from Baghdad, Iraq have not been forgotten.

A family member of one of the heroes asked me to come and speak at the one year anniversary of the tragedy. To be honest, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to deliver an 8 minute speech regarding the ultimate sacrifice of these two men and what it has meant for our family in Indiana.

In order to understand this celebration of life, I want you girls to know something about this town. It is located just north of Fort Leavenworth and has a population of about 10,000 people. When I arrived on Monday morning, the country was absolutely beautiful. The colors of the leaves in the trees and on the ground were exquisite! As I continued to stare at the wonderful landscape surrounding this part of Kansas, I could only imagine why these two sergeants were in love with their communities. It is no wonder neither soldier wanted to be far away. In fact sweeties, they traveled all the way to Iraq to make sure that not only their families would be safe right there in Kansas, but ours in Indiana too!

I would like to bring you three to the National Guard armory in this beautiful town of Atchison, Kansas. It now has two monuments that remind everyone of these two heroes. Every new soldier who joins this 'band of brothers’ will learn of these two heroes’ bravery and stand tall. There is a gorgeous marble bench to sit on while you observe the memorials and then think of the men who are no longer with us. This is the best way to preserve their memories and courageous actions of November 8, 2004.

This letter won’t be long girls, but I want you to know that tears streamed down my cheeks throughout the memorial service as different people talked about the lives of these two special heroes.

A pastor opened the service by praying to Heavenly Father for comfort and direction. The first speaker was the man directly saved by these two men. Mr. Charles Duelfer, spoke eloquently on the need and accomplishments of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) of which he was the Director or top boss. (My job was part of this group)

There appeared to be over 200 people from the local community. The local radio station carried the memorial service over the radio so that all of the community could share in this experience.

I tried to keep the tears from coming, but during the playing of 'Taps,’ I could hear the soft sounds of sobbing and watched as many eyes were wiped in this large audience. I was moved by the many numbers of veterans who served in other wars and came to show strong support for this band of brothers.

It’s important to know that Atchison, Kansas may be known for its inclusion in an old song that Grandma Hamner likes to sing, “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” but now I will always remember that town as one who properly honored its military heroes. I’ve never seen, felt or experienced a better memorial service. The trembling lips, cheeks and red eyes of the honor guard let me know that these men truly missed their brothers. This is what this war is all about: preserving the freedom that was so bitterly fought for in the American Revolution and preserved even to this day.

I know that I have not been released by the military to come home yet. Please don’t get upset with the Army or President Bush. I understand its very hard because I only get to visit from time to time, but girls, remember that I will be home for good one day and then we will catch up on all of the stories that I am sure you will tell me and yes, I have a few for you too! Sweethearts, when you pray for my safety each night, please remember the boys and girls who will never see their fathers (and in some cases, mothers) again. I am sure there are many such children who go to sleep with tears in their eyes after the lights are turned out.

The clock on the wall tells me that I’ve stayed too late at work typing this letter and that I’ve missed your bedtime as well. Please remember our two Kansas heroes in your prayers to Heavenly Father. Don’t forget their families since they have only pictures and memories now. In the war, there are now more than two thousand soldiers killed and we must pray for all of their families. There are so many little boys and girls who will forever miss their own personal heroes.

This Friday will mark another Veteran’s Day to be celebrated and honored for the service of many men and women who value their country enough to stand up for it. I will be home on leave during Veteran’s day this week. How about I pick all three of you up and take you downtown for the parade? Let’s make sure we wave at all the veterans to let them know we appreciate their service.

For a special treat, let’s take Grandpa Hamner, who is a veteran, to a restaurant and let him tell us as many stories it takes to eat dinner and maybe some dessert too! Also, let’s write letters to your two cousins who lost their dad (my brother) from his service in Desert Storm. Remember that they don’t have a dad to hug and read stories to them at night so let’s be extra nice on this Veteran’s Day and surprise them. My heart truly aches because I cannot tuck you in tonight, but I know I will be able to that soon.
Love, Papa

LT. COL Austin Hamner, Chief of Counterintelligence for Iraq Survey Group

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“It was a Thursday afternoon in November 2003, in Colorado Springs and I was leaving work to spend a long weekend with my wife. I was getting ready to shut down my computer when I saw an email come in from Clint. My eyes went to the heading of the email and my heart stopped. There was a code phrase for full alert that was known to all unit members and it stood glaring back at me. With out even opening the message I called Clint to ask if it had been a mistake. No mistake, see you in two weeks, came the reply, in a voice I normally heard Clint use at the end of a long weekend in the field. Which is to say exhausted and devoid of humor. … In March of this year I returned to work to find that my email account had been left active. Over 1600 emails waited for me. Five hundred of which was stating I was over the allowable limit. After spending the entire morning going through my account my heart stopped again. An email dated the day I left for Kansas over 15 months prior starred back at me, from Clint. “See you on the other side” was all that was in the message. It was a standard message that either Clint, George Reeves or Peewee Forbes, would send to me letting me know they would be waiting for me and watching. But I always knew my cot would be waiting for me in the Armory or someone would have a bed ready for me when I got to Kansas. Always gives me a smile knowing the lights always on for me whenever I come out this way. Friends are waiting, foods hot, the beds in a warm dry place, if there is enough time between my arrival and the time we really need to go to work, there is a cold beer sitting in somebody’s ice box with my name on it. When I saw that email after all this time I was no good for the rest of the day at work, and I spent the rest of the day sitting with my boss, another Vet of a different War reminiscing about people that each of us knew but others didn’t. A year ago today was just another day at work, things to be done, some of us were heading out of camp on missions, some of use were staying back, watching and waiting. After spending quite a bit of time outside the camp I always waited impatiently until I knew everyone was back on camp. It’s a bit like tucking the kids in at night and almost like a parent or an older sibling, I just couldn’t seem to relax till I knew everybody had come back. When we got the word of the incident, I had no emotion, stunned silence seemed to be my only reaction, others bless them could let the emotion out fairly quickly. I envied them, and then came the memorial service, standing if front of another set of soldiers crosses half way around the world. I like everyone else apparently found the emotion. I have very little recollection of what happened after that except I couldn’t see and someone near me was howling with anger and sorrow. The first person I heard was me, preceded and followed by others. Some of the guys held me and I held others. After a bit it seemed the emotion pushed its way to the back and it was time to get the rest of the guys home. No time for crying now, was my thought. We have others to worry about, just like Clint. I think I’ve stayed that way since then until today. We had other things to worry about and other things to do, but I’ll always remember that terrible day. Today I remember just like that email said, that we have great friends waiting for us on the other side. They are in no hurry for us to get there of course, but when we do I know there is a tee time open on the golf course, the beer’s on ice, and of course the fish are biting.”

SPC Patrick Stapleton

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It was a calm cloudy day as people began to arrive for the ceremony to begin at 9 a.m.. While patriotic music played people took their places, the soldiers joined in formation. After the Invocation several speakers spoke and poems were read. At exactly 9:26, the exact time they died, there was a moment of silence. Church bells throughout Atchison rang and a pair of Blackhawk helicopters flew over. Janet Wisdom and Kristy Clary were presented the flags that flew over camp Slayer during the ceremony that was held in Iraq a year ago. Then each soldier paid their respects as they individually saluted each statue just as they had done in Iraq.

“While I was standing there during the ceremony, I noticed that the U.S. flag, Kansas State flag, nor the 'Let They Not Be Forgotten' were blowing. Just a few moments after the unveiling of the monuments, the wind picked up and all three flags started blowing. They continued to blow for about two minutes while the salutes were taking place and then suddenly they stopped blowing. For the remainder of the ceremony and up to the time I left, they never blew again. I feel like their presence was among us. I took a photo of them all three blowing because I noticed this. Thought you'd want to know what I experienced while standing there.

I wanted to thank you again for inviting me to attend this...Real awesome, bittersweet, and moving ceremony.”

Mary Anne

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The friends, families and soldiers would like to thank all those who helped make this memorial possible through contributions of money, time, effort, and talents. This memorial represents the best of America and because Americans care and support our troops this memorial was possible.

Story and Photos Submitted by Jeff Hower