ALACHUA, FL, USA
LCPL, 1/6, RCT-7, 1ST MARDIV (FWD), I MEF (FWD) (PARENT CMD: 2D MARDIV)
CAMP DWYER, AFGHANISTAN 05/18/2010
Between the disbelief that it could happen and the overwhelming grief that it did happen, Lance Corporal Philip Clark’s family said Friday that they are trying to come to terms with his death. Clark, 19, a 2008 graduate of Buchholz High School, died in Afghanistan earlier this week in circumstances that remain under investigation by military officials.
Relatives said he was hit in the legs by shrapnel Tuesday while on patrol in Marjah. He was pronounced dead a short time later at a trauma center. “He died doing what he wanted to do – what he believed in,” said Clark’s father, Mike Clark.
“He never backed down – he’d be the smallest guy on the football field and would never back down and that’s why he chose the Marines,” Mike Clark said. “They are the first ones into the fight. They lead the way and go right up the middle and that is what he wanted … to be the best and the first.”
Philip Clark’s drive to become a member of the Marine Corps became obvious during his senior year of high school, when he dropped out of football to focus on preparing for boot camp at Parris Island, his parents said Friday. “He would put weights in his backpack and then go out for a run,” Mike Clark said. “He trained like that because he did not want to be the one lagging behind during basic training.”
Clark’s stepbrother, Tyler Nordyke, who is five days older than Philip, said, “He always wanted to be at the front – he wanted to be leading the charge. I couldn’t see him being anything but career military.”
Stepmother Tammy Clark recalled how eager Philip was to be deployed.
“He couldn’t wait to get to Afghanistan and there were several delays for his unit, but once Obama announced the troop surge, he knew he would be going and he wanted to be there,” Tammy Clark said.
Clark’s widow, Ashton Clark, 19, of San Antonio, Texas, was expecting the man she married in October to be back home by July. The couple were married in a Texas courthouse after a whirlwind courtship and planned to have a big celebration when Philip completed his overseas tour of duty.
“Philip always talked about (his death) as a possibility,” she said.
The couple was introduced by a mutual acquaintance and began corresponding over the Internet and by phone on July 4, 2009. They were married Oct. 12. It was a marriage that Mike and Tammy Clark said they were initially concerned about, because the bride and groom were both 19 and had known each other for such a short time.
“When we met her, we got it – she was perfect for him,” said Mike Clark.
Marine Lance Corporal Philip P. Clark and his wife, Ashton, were making big plans for his return from Afghanistan this summer.
“We had a lot of plans and wanted kids. He wanted to have a baby as soon as he got home, and we were talking about that,” she said. “He wanted a girl, and we were going to name her Olivia Marie.”
The Clarks were a very young couple, married in a simple courthouse ceremony with a pair of Marine buddies at their side but sure of where they were headed and so close to each other they could finish each other’s sentences.