The body of a Clark County soldier arrived Wednesday back in the United States, one day after Jonah McClellan and eight other NATO troops died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
McClellan’s body was aboard a military jet that landed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, site of a military mortuary center.
McClellan grew up near Battle Ground. He leaves behind his wife, Nina, and their three small children.
The Battle Ground City Council ordered flags at city facilities be lowered to half-staff in honor of McClellan. The flags will remain at half-staff until McClellan’s memorial service. The family has not yet announced plans for a service.
His father, Rod McClellan, said the family was visited again Wednesday by Army casualty assistance officers, but they had no additional information about Tuesday’s crash in southern Afghanistan.
“It crashed at 4 a.m., shortly after takeoff,” he said.
The 26-year-old McClellan was a chief warrant officer and an Army aviator, but the military representatives didn’t specify his role on the mission.
“He was either the pilot or the co-pilot,” Rod McClellan said.
McClellan, who joined the Army in 2003, told the family about some of his missions in general terms — airlifting injured soldiers, transporting troops and dropping off ammunition.
“I think what he told us was filtered,” Rod McClellan said. “Anything tough he didn’t tell us: close calls or being fired on, he never told us that stuff.”
Second Afghan tour
He started his second yearlong tour of Afghanistan in March. McClellan said his son was based in Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne Division.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that five members of the 101st Airborne Division were among the nine crash victims, although their names have not been released.
An Afghan soldier and an American civilian survived the crash, said another news service, citing a statement from the International Security Assistance Force.
It also was reported that some of the American fatalities were special operations troops, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The province where the crash occurred is a Taliban stronghold, and is the focus of a major U.S. offensive.
In some wire service reports, McClellan was described as being from Minnesota. His son was born in Minnesota, which is the only reason Rod McClellan could think of for that discrepancy.
Quiet, polite student
Jonah McClellan spent most of his life in Clark County. A message sent out Wednesday by Battle Ground Public Schools said that McClellan attended Capt. Strong Primary and the former Lewisville Middle School.
He was a 2002 graduate of Summit View High School, and also attended Battle Ground High for three years.
“He is remembered at Summit View as a quiet and polite student,” the bulletin said.
McClellan is at least the 20th solider, Marine or contractor with Clark County ties killed in the War On Terror since 2003.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.