The Salem community is in mourning after a Salem High School graduate was shot and killed in Iraq Dec 12.
"We loved him and we are going to miss him so much," a tearful Cindy McCullough said after she learned that her 21-year-old son-in-law, Marine Cpl. Jason Clairday, had been killed in Iraq.
Clairday is the first Fulton County resident to lose his life in the war.
Clairday's pastor, John Hodges of Salem First Baptist, said Clairday lost his life in a small arms skirmish near the town of Fallujah.
He said military officials emphasized that it was enemy fire that killed Clairday, not friendly fire.
"He was a fine kid that anyone would be proud to call their own son," Hodges said.
Hodges said the news was devastating for Clairday's family, especially his wife Sarah. The couple was married July 30, several weeks prior to his deployment to Iraq. Clairday was stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Sarah Clairday lives in Salem and is a student at Arkansas State University in Mountain Home. She is the daughter of Cindy and Kenny McCullough.
Clairday joined the Marines shortly after he graduated from Salem High School in 2001. Hodges said Clairday's enlistment would have ended in the late spring of next year.
"He had tentatively planned to go to college when he got out of the service," Hodges said.
Hodges said Clairday's mother, Nancy Spinell, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., would arrive in Salem within the next several days. The whereabouts of Jason's father, Skip Clairday, were unknown as of press time.
Salem High School Principal Wayne Guiltner said Clairday played on his baseball team.
"He was a good ballplayer and a great guy. He is someone that we will all miss," Guiltner said.
McCullough said it would be several days before the military could release any more information about her son-in-law's death. Funeral arrangements were unknown at press time Tuesday.