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Father of slain Fort Drum lieutenant colonel talks about son’s service

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FORT DRUM — The father of a lieutenant colonel from post killed Saturday in an insider attack in Afghanistan described his family’s loss but also his son’s character and dedication Monday.

Lt. Col. Todd J. Clark, 40, of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was one of three Americans, two soldiers and one civilian contractor, killed Saturday when an Afghan soldier the Americans were training turned his weapon on them.

“It’s been real hard ... it hits real close to home,” R. Jack Clark said by telephone Monday evening. “You can never be prepared when it’s your own. You should never have to bury your own children before you die. It’s just not right.”

Mr. Clark, himself a retired Army colonel who served for 30 years, described Col. Clark as “a great soldier, and a great son.”

The attack took place in Paktika province, in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border.

The deaths had not been confirmed by the Department of Defense as of Monday night, which is typical until next of kin is notified. Fort Drum does not comment on combat deaths until the DOD announcement.

Mr. Clark said his son had wanted to be in the military since he was 2 years old, when he regularly wore a set of child-sized fatigues and military boots.

“He’d see his dad in his Army uniform, so he wanted to wear one like me,” he said.

Mr. Clark said his son had a fascination with tanks, and quickly learned about their inner workings and operations.

“He just grasped stuff with such ease,” he said.

Col. Clark was a 1990 graduate of Christian Brothers Academy, Syracuse, where he joined JROTC, and entered the Army after earning a degree at Texas A&M University, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets.

At the time of his death, Col. Clark was on the fifth tour of his 17-year career, which included a previous tour in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. Mr. Clark said his son was one of the first to enter combat in Baghdad.

His military career also included time in Bosnia, Kuwait and South Korea, and at installations across the continental United States.

He earned a Purple Heart when he was badly wounded by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, in July 2010. Mr. Clark said his son told him that he was convinced he had died in the blast.

“He said he talked to God and said, ‘I’m not ready yet,’” Mr. Clark said.

He spent eight months recovering in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., with doctors removing his thyroid because of concerns it was cancerous. Mr. Clark said his son refused an offer to be medically discharged as a result of his injuries.

“He said, ‘That’s not going to happen. ... I have to join the fight; that’s what I do,’” Mr. Clark said.

He said his son was motivated by his injuries to get involved in Wounded Warrior community projects.

For his last deployment, Mr. Clark said, his son was specially picked to deploy with the brigade, because of his previous combat experience, education and language skills.

While at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., Mr. Clark said, his son wrote his thesis on how to establish and run an advisory team. Col. Clark also graduated from the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., his father said.

While in Afghanistan, Col. Clark learned that his next assignment would be executive officer for Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets, which his father called “a dream assignment.”

In advance of the assignment, Mr. Clark said, his son bought land in Texas, and was making plans to retire there. Mr. Clark said his son will be buried in Texas.

In addition to his father and his mother, Kathleen A. Clark, who live outside of Albany, Col. Clark is survived by his wife, Shelley W. Clark, and their two children, Collin, 15, and Madison, 12, who live near Fort Drum.

The civilian contractor killed in the attack was identified Monday by WNYT-TV as Joseph Morabito, of Hunter. His wife, Andrea, told the station that her husband would have turned 55 on Monday. She said her husband was a private security contractor working with Col. Clark as part of a group teaching Afghans how to be police officers.

The identity and unit of the third person killed in the attack, a soldier, has not been announced by the Department of Defense.

Col. Clark is the division’s fifth officer of lieutenant colonel rank or higher to die in combat since 2001.

The others are Lt. Col. Paul R. Bartz and Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer, who were killed in a car bombing attack in May 2010; Lt. Col. Joseph J. Fenty Jr., who was one of 10 soldiers killed in a May 2006 helicopter crash, and Lt. Col. Leon G. James II, who was killed by a roadside bomb in September 2005.

The division has lost 297 soldiers in combat, including Col. Clark, since Sept. 11, 2001.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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