FT. GORDON, GA (WFXG) - On Memorial Day, America collectively remembers those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Fort Gordon took the day to honor one Augusta native whose life was taken unexpectedly while in the service.
Specialist Hilda Clayton enlisted in the Army in 2011. Her weapon of choice: a camera. The combat photographer captured powerful scenes of war.
“She’s one of those soldiers that, she’s just there. She’s always doing the right thing, always in the right place, always in the right uniform, always ready to step up, get her hands dirty and accomplish whatever mission that you bestow upon her," recalled her former company commander and U.S. Army service member of 22 years, LTC Kyle Yates.
Specialist Clayton was killed in 2013 while documenting a live-fire training exercise in Afghanistan, on a hot day in July. A mortar tube exploded and she was struck with shrapnel. She is the first combat documentation and production specialist to die there. She captured the image of the deadly explosion that took her life.
“I look up to people who volunteer their life and who sacrifice their lives to serve for their country," said U.S. Army PFC Dianemae Llorente, who sung the National Anthem at Monday’s ceremony.
She received many accolades in life and in death. Her military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal (Posthumous), Army Commendation Medal (Posthumous), Army Good Conduct Medal (Posthumous), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and NATO Medal (Posthumous), Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badge Expert with Rifle Bar. She also was awarded the Army Superior Unit Award Ribbon and Meritorious Unit Commendation unit awards. Her military education consisted of Basic Combat Training and Video.
Building #33805 will be renamed to Hilda I. Clayton Memorial Barracks in her honor. Her former company commander tells FOX 54 that he hopes her legacy of service and sacrifice is something that troops will remember and embody.
People who live in Building #33805 are responsible for the training, health and welfare of soldiers preparing to become signal soldiers specializing in information technology.
Specialist Clayton’s name is etched into the Wall of Heroes at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, where she trained to become a Combat Camera Soldier.