Published - May, 18, 2006
Washington High seniors honor late soldier's 'ultimate sacrifice'

Angela Fail

The senior class at Washington High School paid tribute Wednesday night to a former Wildcat who set an example of patriotism for the school.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Clay, a 1996 Washington graduate who died in December in Iraq, was honored with a plaque that will hang in his memory at the school's entrance.

Students, faculty and parents offered prayers and applause for Clay's father, mother and sister. Clay, 27, was among 10 U.S. Marines killed by a roadside bomb Dec. 1 near Fallujah.

Tom Leonard, dean of students, said the students of the class of 2006 felt that honoring Clay's memory was their responsibility.

"They realized this year was 10 years after his graduation," Leonard said. "That was very special to them."

Class president Ron Alyn MacBeth said Clay's dedication to service is a true inspiration to the students at Washington.

"How do you define a patriot?" he said. "We all make sacrifices to some degree. But he made the ultimate sacrifice."

Clay was a member of Washington's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program and enlisted soon after his graduation.

"He was a true American," MacBeth said. "He always wanted to be a Marine. I suspect if he were standing here tonight, he'd make the same decision all over again."

Clay's mother, Sara Jo Clay, said the plaque, which reads "Fellow Wildcat. American Hero," was a fitting honor in a school where their family had spent so many years.

"We are so grateful to them for remembering Dan in this way," she said. "This, in a sense, is like coming home."