Community Gathers to Mourn Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Military pallbearers carry the casket of Army Sgt. Jason McClary from his funeral, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in Export, Pa. McClary died from wounds suffered in a roadside bomb blast last month in Afghanistan. Three other service members were killed in the explosion. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Military pallbearers carry the casket of Army Sgt. Jason McClary from his funeral, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in Export, Pa. McClary died from wounds suffered in a roadside bomb blast last month in Afghanistan. Three other service members were killed in the explosion. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

EXPORT, Pa. — Family and loved ones said goodbye to a Pennsylvania soldier killed in Afghanistan, remembering him as a good and caring man who loved his country.

The funeral for Staff Sgt. Jason McClary was held on a cold Tuesday morning at Cornerstone Ministries Church. Before the service, a slideshow with photos of him played on a big screen near the flag-draped coffin.

Family members said all McClary, 24, ever wanted to do was to join the Army. Jeffrey Ritter said his "kindhearted" brother will be missed.

"He loved what he did. Loved his country. He died a hero," Ritter said. "He's being honored right now in every way he deserves and it means a whole lot. That's how I'd like him to be remembered: a hero."

McClary's sister-in-law, Katrina Ritter, called him "one of the strongest and most caring people we've known." She said the family believes he was ready to come home and planned to return to Pennsylvania to be with his family.

Scott Bowman, of Murrysville, who was among those who didn't know McClary but wanted to honor him, described himself as somewhat "speechless" and wanting to "thank God ... (for) brave men in our country like that to go out and defend us."

McClary, who was to be buried at National Cemetery of the Alleghenies with full military honors, died after a roadside bomb blast last month in Afghanistan.

Three other service members were killed in the explosion, including U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, of Beaver County. Elchin, whose memorial service was last week, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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