By Rachel Petersen
Sgt. Jason J. McCluskey was laid to rest on Saturday with hundreds of his friends, family members and comrades in attendance. And there were hundreds more standing outside the First Baptist Church in McAlester listening to his memorial service via tall standing loudspeakers. And still there were hundreds more lining the roads and intersections from the church to the cemetery waving American Flags and patriotic signs. And there were yet hundreds more at his graveside services at the Tannehill cemetery.
“Our Army and nation will be forever indebted to Sgt. McCluskey for his service,” said Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson, XVIII Airborne Corps DCG. “Sgt. McCluskey laid down his life for his friends, his battle buddies, his unit, our Army and our nation.”
McCluskey, 26, a 2004 McAlester High School graduate and United States Army paratrooper, was killed in action on Nov. 4 while serving his country in the United States Army in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Anderson, who was co-officiating the funeral services with Dr. Tim Russell, said that McCluskey’s job in the Army was one of the most dangerous, and “he led his men from the front into combat.” McCluskey’s unit, and “battle buddies,” remain in Afghanistan, Anderson said, “still fighting the fight.”
Among numerous other awards, honors and medals, Sgt. McCluskey was awarded two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for his service.
“I believe Jason’s mission in life was to be a protector and defender, and that is what he did,” said Anita McCluskey, Jason’s grandmother. “There is no greater love than a person who lays down his life for others. Jason showed us this love and we have all been honored and blessed by him.”
McCluskey was born on Sept. 12, 1984, in Stockton, Calif. “Jason was a McAlester Buffalo,” said his mother, Delores Oliveras, in an earlier interview. “He wrestled and went to State multiple years while he was in high school.” He graduated from McAlester High School in 2004 and he joined the U.S. Army in April of 2006.
McCluskey’s long-time friend, Alena Ashalintubbi, spoke of how kind he was. “He had a way about him that immediately put people at ease,” she explained, “anyone who knew Jason, knew his love for life. He was so funny.”
McAlester Buffalo coach Brent Grilliot had been McCluskey’s Junior High wrestling coach, as well as his senior year coach. Jason was honest, trustworthy, accountable, independent, reliable and “fun to coach,” Grilliot said. “He never let his team down, he never quit and he never, ever, disappointed me.”
Russell, a funeral officiator, explained that he hadn’t realized the kind of “stir” McCluskey’s memorial had caused within the community. “It has caused a lot of good,” Russell said, “the community has come together as a result of this and I’m grateful to the community for coming together in support of Sgt. Jason J. McCluskey.” Russell went on to explain that “Jason believed in the mission of our military. He believed that if he didn’t go fight our enemies for this mission over there, then our enemies would come back here and fight.”
Jerome Snider, father of Sgt. Jeremy Snider, said that his son had been in McCluskey’s unit and he was at the memorial so he could take pictures of the services to send back to the men in McCluskey’s unit, whom are still in Afghanistan.
Services at the church concluded and viewing began as several uniformed members of the Honor Team of Fort Bragg, N.C., marched to the front of the church and, two at a time, saluted Sgt. Jason McCluskey while he lay in his casket.
The funeral procession to Tannehill Cemetery was headed by hundreds of motorcycles and greeted with hundreds of people lining the streets and intersections holding patriotic signs and American Flags. McCluskey was honored in graveside services by the 27th Engineering Battalion (C) (A) Honor Team of Fort Bragg, N.C. with Captain Tim Behnke, USA 307th Engineering Battalion (C) (A) Chaplain, Officiating.
McCluskey was honored in his graveside services by a ceremonial rifle volley, “taps” by trumpet, funeral bagpipes and a ceremonial folding of the flag and flag presentations to his son, Landon, his mother, Delores, his father, Jimmy, and his brother, Joshua.
McCluskey is survived by his son, Landon McCluskey; his mother, Delores Darby McCluskey Oliveras, and her husband, Ray; his father, Jimmy McCluskey; his brother, Joshua Stambaugh; his stepfather, Charlie Stambaugh; his grandmother, Anita McCluskey; his grandmother, Wilma Kohl and husband Doyle; mother of his son, Cassie Wright; and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Moments prior to services beginning, Sgt. Jason McCluskey’s mother, Delores, asked that the News-Capital extend her thanks and appreciation to the community, the mayor, the groups and organizations and individuals who have come together in support of her son and her family.
Contact Rachel Petersen at rpetersen@