Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
A helicopter crash last week claimed nine lives in southern Afghanistan: five Army and four Navy men serving their country.
Details are sparse, even a week later, about the men and their mission. Their names were released several days after the crash, and among them was a "native Minnesotan." That "native" was actually a "Kimball native," although he grew up in Washington state.
Jonah David McClellan is the son of Leona (Hendrickson) and Rob McClellan of Battle Ground, Wash. His grandparents are Reuben and Helen Hendrickson of Kimball. Jonah was born here but grew up in Washington.
Jonah was 26, married, and had three small children. He was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, one of two on board the helicopter when it crashed. It is not yet known whether he was the pilot or co-pilot. At this point, that probably doesn't matter.
What does matter is that the Hendrickson and McClellan families have suffered an indescribable and unimaginable loss. One that only about 5,700 other American families can fathom: families of those who have died for their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
What we do know
McClellan joined the Army in 2003 to learn to fly helicopters. He graduated high school in 2002.
He was a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the 5th Batallion of the 101st Airborne Division, Combat Aviation Brigade, based in Fort Campbell, Ky. His unit was deployed in March 2010; this was his second one-year tour in Afghanistan.
McClellan's honors include the Air Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, and Army Aviator Badge.
His funeral is scheduled for Friday this week. Flags on state buildings in Washington state will be flown at half-staff in his honor.
According to his father Rob, Jonah loved to fly helicopters, and every time was like his first time. Rob told us that Jonah died doing exactly what he wanted.