A Mid-South family is grieving after a soldier from Memphis is killed in Iraq on Christmas day. Twenty-nine year-old Army Captain Hayes Clayton, Jr. was born in Memphis. He died Monday, December 25, 2006 when a roadside bomb exploded under his HUM-V.
Hayes Clayton, Jr. was a husband and a new father. His son, Hayes Clayton III was just three weeks old when his father was ordered to Iraq back in September. Clayton’s wife learned about her husband’s death on Christmas night.
Vera Cooper also got the call about her grandson’s death on Christmas night. She said, “It just was like everything sort of stopped at that moment. I think we kept hoping, and certainly praying, that it would never happen, even though it had happened to a thousand others, but you think maybe by chance he would make it home, he would be one of those that will come home.”
Cooper said her grandson knew the risks going in, but was prepared to face them. She told us, “When he got ready to go to Iraq, he didn’t complain about that. It was an acceptance. It was part of who he was. It was part of his job to do what he was supposed to do.”
But Cooper said Junior’s courage doesn’t make his death any less painful, “Some hours are better than others, and some it will become overwhelming when I think about the finale of the whole thing, and then I think about how his son won’t really know who he is.”
Hayes Clayton III is not yet six months old. His dad made him a video before he left for the war. But Cooper said it can never replace the time this little boy has lost with his father. She said, “He was a good son, he was a good son, a good grandson. The only thing that I regret was that it came soon.”
Cooper said Clayton joined the army because he hoped to one day run for office. He was a political science major in college, and he told his grandma he wanted to actually know what it was like to be in the service if he was ever going to be in a position to send troops into battle.
The funeral for Hayes Clayton, Jr. will be held January 6th in Marietta, GA. His family moved to Georgia from Memphis when he was still young.