Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Joel D. Clarkson, 10/08/86 - 03/16/10

My 23 year old son-in-law died today.

He was a US Army Ranger, on his 5th deployment to the Middle East.  He sustained a critical head injury on a mission last week.  Once the field surgeons stabilized him, he was flown to Germany.  My daughter (his wife) and their 9 month old son flew, together with his parents and sister, to be with him.

The injury resulted in brain death.

Carrying on his heroic nature, his last act was to donate life-saving organs so that others might live to see their spouses, children and parents another day.  His final gift saved seven people, including children.

They're all flying home soon.  My daughter's last comment to me, before leaving the States, was that she wasn't coming back until she had Joel with her.

I cannot fathom what my daughter is feeling as a "widow," not yet 21 years old.  I mourn that my grandson will never know his father, except through old pictures and other people's memories.  I empathize so deeply with his parents and siblings and other family... I considered him "one of mine."  I find myself cursing the bright blue, Spring sky for daring to be so cheerful today.  It should be raining buckets, with keening winds, black clouds and the suffocating sense of loss I am feeling right now. 

Before today, I would have disbelieved the human heart could shatter into so many pieces, in just a millisecond.

Joel ~ Son.  Brother.  Grandson.  Nephew.  Cousin.  Husband.  Father.  Son-in-Law.  Brother-in-Law.  Brother in Arms.  Friend.  Hero.  We love you.


  1. Joel was in my daughters boyfirend unit.... My heart goes out to his family. This is a hard war and as much as some of us are against it we have to remember the sacrificethe men and women are making to do their job. The famlies make a big one also. I am very sorry for your loss. Joel give himself for me and everyone else her. There is no way to say thank you for what he did.
    Please let your daughter know I know a lot of people that are holding your family and her up in prayer....

  2. We just now heard of Joel's death ... there are no words, except we are so very sorry, and will be on our knees for all of you in the hours, days and months ahead.

    Michael and Stevie
    Ranger Parents

  3. Hello,I found your blog thru a link on my nephew's Armando's facebook,he is also a Ranger and was in the same Company as Joel his last year.Mando told us about your son in law and said he was a good guy.I am so sorry this happened, please give our condolences to your daughter and Joel's family and friends.
    I posted a link on my blog to your post,hope you don't mind.

  4. Growing up the child of a career Marine, I have utmost respect for the men and women who protect our freedoms. I can't imagine the grief that your families must be experiencing after this tragic loss.

    My prayers are with you all during this difficult time.

  5. 1SG Nancy UptgraftMarch 24, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Joel was in my JROTC at LHS and my heart was very heavy hearing news from Patty Folger. He will be missed dearly. I wish I could make his Memorial Saturday but all will be in my prayers. Most of the school flags were at half staff yesterday and LHS marque on the flags and memory of SGT Clarkson. Our Military Ball this Saturday for all 3 JROTC schools, will have a write up on him and a special tribute for him. When all come back to AK, LHS JROTC is available for anything needed for the possible Memorial here in Fairbanks/NP. I met your lovely daughter last year when they stopped by and they were both excited about the future baby. Gods Blessing Always, 1SG Nancy Uptgraft

  6. There are absolutely no words. Millions of tears, but no words. My heart breaks for you, your daughter and your grandson. I don't know you, but my kids and I are saying a prayer for you tonight. God be with you.

  7. Thank you is just not enough; "Remember that only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One chose to die for your soul, the other for your freedom!" I have been using this phrase lately.
    My son is in the same Ranger Regiment and will be flying back to the states and be back to Fort Lewis on Monday. I have prayed twice a day since my son has been overseas,for all who are serving. Now my prayers will be including your daughter, and your family.
    Bless you all. Ranger mom.

  8. I have known Karen and Steve Clarkson for about 10 years, and of course met their son Joel and daughter Jessica during that time. The last time I spoke to Karen, Cassandra was just about ready to give birth to Orion, Joel was coming home that day or the next to be with her. Karen was so excited about it all she was practically beside herself, but at the same time she was steady as a rock, ready to help everything proceed smoothly. They are a wonderful family and I can just barely imagine how hard this loss is to them all. My heart goes out to all of you. LJ in Fairbanks

  9. Joel was a commendable Ranger in AFG, unfortunately I traveled separately and left the unit the night he was hit. Early on in the tour, he asked me what my first name was, because after a month or so of going out on missions together, he said; "What's your first name, man?...I can't just keep calling you by your callsign like everyone else." He made me feel welcome, and I will always miss him for his bright spirit and positive attitude. I will never forget you Joel. -John

    Having bracelets made, so myself and a few others can keep him close.

  10. RIP Ranger.
    Blue Skies, I will see you at the final rally point.


  11. Its been one year, man. It doesn't seem real... You're still with us in everything we do, training, fighting, or just hanging out and blowing off steam. Some of the best, and worst, times are when one of us will tell either a story about you, or one you had told us. We miss you every single day, brother, and will wait until the final link up....

    2A 2/75 Blacksheep R.L.T.W.

  12. My husband and Joel were in the same Company when the incident happened. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet him but I have heard nothing but wonderful things about him.

    Yesterday, SFC Leroy Petry was awarded the Medal of Honor and while in D.C. all of the guys went to visit Joel. They left him a couple beers, knowing he would have loved that!

    My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. I can only hope that everyday gets easier. Just remember, he was doing what he loved.

    Rest in Peace, Ranger.