Kathryn McClamrock sat in her upstairs bedroom Tuesday night crying over a "silly TV show," when her younger sister, 10-year-old Caroline, came in sobbing and wiping her face with a wet towel.
"She said, 'There's two people from the Army downstairs. It's about Jamie. He was shot. He's dead.'" Kathryn, 18, recalled Wednesday evening. "After that, I had something to really cry about."
Pfc. James McClamrock, 22, born in Columbia and raised in Hendersonville and Statesville, was part of a security detail Tuesday in Iraq, family members were told. He was guarding a company commander who was meeting with Iraqi security forces at an army base north of Baghdad.
Suddenly an Iraqi soldier opened fire on the Americans, the military said in a statement.
McClamrock and another U.S. soldier from the Army's Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division were killed, the first Americans to die in Iraq since combat operations formally ended last week. The Iraqi soldier was shot and killed.
Nine other Americans were wounded - underscoring the dangers facing 50,000 U.S. troops still in the country.
The U.S. military and Iraqi defense ministry are investigating the firefight.
Wednesday evening in Concord, where McClamrock's parents and five siblings live, friends gathered at Concord ARP Church, where his father is the pastor.
They recalled a young man deeply religious, who had joined the Army a year ago after feeling a divine calling. They prayed for the families of the other dead soldier and the nine wounded soldiers.
"In the depth of our sorrow, we feel the sting tonight of James' loss," said Eugene Boelte, a retired minister and member of the congregation. "This has shocked us and stirred our emotion deeply.
"...But somewhere in all of this, at some point, we will find the answers of why."
Moved to enlist
Unlike many boys, McClamrock didn't grow up playing war games, or aching to be a soldier, sister Kathryn said.
He graduated from South Iredell High School in 2006, where he played soccer and tennis and kicked for the football team, she said.
Two years ago, his parents, Mark and Susan McClamrock, moved the family to Concord, where Mark grew up and where James' grandfather, Fleet McClamrock, was once police chief.
After high school, James got married, started college at Mitchell Community College and began working security for the federal Transportation Security Administration at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, she said.
He and his wife, Shannah, moved to Huntersville.
"Then one night he declared he was enlisting in the Army because 'God wants me to do this,'" Kathryn McClamrock said. "We're all strong Christians. If he said that, then nobody was going to stop him. His wife understood."
He signed up for a four-year stint and had been in the Army a year when he was killed.
'God will get us through'
Wednesday afternoon, the parents flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet their son's body. The military is scheduled to hold a service at 1 p.m. today at the base.
As news of James' death spread, a procession of friends brought food and hugs to the family's white two-story house on Marsh Avenue next to the church.
They all searched for answers - except for his sister, Kathryn.
"We don't need to know why," she said. "We don't need to blame anyone. The man who shot my brother is dead now, too. If you believe in God's strength, you know he will get us through this."
- David Perlmutt, the Charlotte Observer
Published in Charlotte Observer on Sep. 9, 2010.