Remembering Our Fallen

13 Jews Who Died Fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq

Fallen Comrades: Service members salute James Malachowski, who was killed March 20, 2011, by an improvised explosive device in Marjah, Afghanistan. He was 25.
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Fallen Comrades: Service members salute James Malachowski, who was killed March 20, 2011, by an improvised explosive device in Marjah, Afghanistan. He was 25.

By Maia Efrem, Blair Thornburgh, Andrea Palatnik and Seth Berkman

Published September 09, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
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Cpl. Ryan J. Clark

An Angels fan

A caring soul who loved his family, Ryan Clark was liked by all who knew him. He had a gift for making others feel comfortable and relaxed. The Lancaster, Calif., native enlisted in the Army right after high school. “The military matured him so much,” said his stepsister, Hollie O’Brien. “When he came home, we could tell how much he had changed, and it was a good change.”

Growing up in an interfaith home with a Jewish mother, Clark celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah with his family. (His mother died two years after he did.)

“He had so much energy as a kid,” Norm Shaffer, his maternal grandfather, told the Forward. “He lived just a couple of blocks away from us, and he would just come by all the time to raid our refrigerator and talk. I’d take him to school and I’d take him everywhere when he was small. I’ll tell you one thing about Ryan: he was an angel.”

Clark was a true baseball enthusiast; his brother Sean fondly remembers playing games in their backyard. When he died, one of his friends spoke to baseball’s Los Angeles Angels about Clark’s devotion to the team; the Angels bought a bench for the cemetery where Clark is buried so that when people come and visit his grave, they have a place to sit.

After an attack Clark was injured and suffered third-degree burns all over his body. At the end of a 10-day struggle to stay alive, he died in a Texas hospital, surrounded by his parents. When O’Brien had visited Clark for his boot camp graduation, he made her a keychain from a rock the two found nearby. She has carried it since the day he died.

Ryan Clark died June 29, 2006, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq. He was 19 years old.


Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul

A man who waged peace

Robert Paul, an Army Reservist with a master’s degree in urban planning and economic development from the University of Maryland, was called to active duty in early 2004 to help rebuild infrastructure in Iraq. Paul was featured in Rob Schultheis’s 2005 book, “Waging Peace: A Special Operations Team’s Battle To Rebuild Iraq.” He also wrote occasional dispatches for his local newspaper, The Dalles Chronicle, in Oregon.

“It was pretty obvious what was broken and rundown,” Paul wrote from Iraq. “Saddam [Hussein] did absolutely no maintenance to his cities. Everything was broken or about to break. I was performing maintenance and repair on systems that were not maintained for decades. They were also poorly designed. Naturally, I worked with community groups and the like to get projects aimed at what civilians wanted most rather than what I thought they should want most.”

Originally from Hammond, Ind., Paul also spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya.

But it was the wilderness of Oregon that he loved the most. “Bob loved this area so much. He moved out here because he loved the West, he loved Oregon and he loved the [Columbia River] Gorge. He was very much into hiking and trail running and whitewater kayaking, all the outdoor experiences,” Todd Cornett, who worked with Paul as an urban planner in the Dalles area, told The Dalles Chronicle.

He was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2006. In a statement released by the Army after he died, Paul’s family said: “Bob was the kind of guy who if called for duty, would serve. He never turned down an opportunity, because he always wanted to make a difference in everything he did — the Peace Corps, the Army, his civilian job and, most importantly, his family and friends.”

Robert Paul was killed September 8, 2006, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Kabul, Afghanistan. A month earlier, he had celebrated his 43rd birthday.


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