An Army Ranger from Joint Base Lewis-McChord has died after being critically wounded in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Joel D. Clarkson, a 23-year-old Alaska native, died Wednesday after being injured by small-arms fire during a mission in Helmand province March 12. Clarkson was a member of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and was on his fifth overseas tour.
He is survived by his wife, Cassandra, and their f9-month-old son, Orion. The couple lived in Puyallup.
Eleven soldiers from 2nd Ranger Battalion have been killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Clarkson is the first member of the Special Operations battalion to die in combat since June 2008.
The Pentagon has yet to confirm Clarkson’s death, but relatives spread the news on a Facebook page created shortly after he was injured. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell also acknowledged it in a statement late Friday evening.
“Sandy and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Sgt. Clarkson,” Parnell said. “He was a brave soldier who sacrificed his life while defending our freedom. We offer our condolences and prayers for his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Clarkson’s family told the Whidbey News-Times of Oak Harbor that Clarkson was shot in the head March 12. He underwent two surgeries in Afghanistan and later was flown to Germany.
“A bullet entered the front side of his helmet and penetrated his skull during combat,” Clarkson’s uncle, David Williams, told the News-Times. “The shock of it took him out pretty good.”
Clarkson attended Oak Harbor High School for several months during his senior year in 2004, according to the paper.
A memorial service will be Saturday at Lewis-McChord, and a funeral will be April 5 at Arlington National Cemetery, according to the Facebook page.