SH soldier injured by bomb in Afghanistan

A soldier from Sweet Home was injured Dec. 5 in northern Afghanistan when a roadside bomb exploded, killing a fellow soldier from Oregon.

Army Staff Sgt. James McClintock, 35, was en route in a convoy to a location where an improvised explosive device had exploded earlier, said his sister, Tammy Cooper of Sweet Home. He and Specialist Elijah Rao of West Linn, Ore., got out of their Humvee and another bomb exploded, killing Rao, 26, and severely injuring McClintock.

He suffered a shattered hip, second-degree burns on his right side and three or four broken ribs, said his mother, Linda Paddock of Sweet Home.

“He stayed alert, waiting for the next convoy, 30 minutes away,” she said. “He was able to let them know what happened and stayed awake until they got to the medic center to relay the same information.”

Doctors operated on McClintock’s hip on the night of Dec. 5 and put in a ventilator, then he was flown Dec. 6 to Germany and then, on Dec. 8, to a burn center in San Antonio, Texas.

After recovery, he is expected to return to Ft. Carson, Colo., where he is stationed. His wife, who is also in the Army, flew to San Antonio Wednesday, Dec. 9, to be with him, Cooper said.

Paddock flew to Colorado to be with the couple’s children, Jason, 6, and Dylan, 4. McClintock also has a daughter, Katie, 14, and a son, Cody, 12, from a previous marriage.

His father, James L. McClintock , lives in Redding, Calif., and his grandparents, Dan and Lois Paddock, are Sweet Home residents. Brother Gary Boer lives in Cottage Grove.

Cooper said last week that doctors had not given a prognosis in McClintock’s case and that they were de-emphasizing family because “every time they mention family, his heart rate goes up.”

McClintock joined the Army in 2000 and has served as a drill instructor at Ft. Jackson, S.C. He was a sniper in Afghanistan after serving two tours in Iraq.

Paddock said that during McClintock’s first tour in Iraq, he witnessed a suicide bomber blow up a bus after boarding directly ahead of a woman carrying a baby, both of whom were killed.

Her son was also present when shrapnel from another bomb killed a fellow soldier in Iraq.

She said McClintock held the soldier, assuring him that McClintock was there with him, “but the soldier didn’t make it.”

“He enjoyed talking to the people in the countries he was in,” Paddock said.

Cooper said the family had not heard much recently from McClintock, who went to Afghanistan in April, but she had checked his MySpace page on his birthday, Nov. 28, and noticed that he had last logged in on that day.

According to news reports, Rao’s body was returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Dec. 7. His family said a funeral would be held at Lincoln Memorial Park in Portland, with burial at Willamette National Cemetery.

Rao had already served two tours of duty in Iraq and would have returned from Afghanistan in May, according to reports. He leaves behind his wife Leah and 21-month- old daughter Eilana who live in Lawton, Okla., where Rao had been based at nearby Fort Still Army Base. He worked as a meteorological equipment repairman with the Army.

Rao attended Estacada High School for two years, then transferred to Clackamas High School and then to West Linn High school for his last year and a half, according to a West Linn school official. He joined the Army six years ago. Family members live in the Portland and Vancouver areas.

Rao is reportedly the 24th person from Oregon and Southwest Washington area to be killed in Afghanistan and one of at least 853 U.S. military personnel who have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department.

“There is always the question of ‘Why?’ McClintock’s mother said. “My daughter-in-law was asked by Spec. Rao’s wife, ‘Why was my husband killed and not yours?’ Why weren’t both of them spared instead, but there is no answer to those questions.

“We want people to pray for not only the lost soldiers and their families, but also the injured soldiers and their families who will live with the ‘Why’ questions.”