Shortly after the death of Moses, God made a vow to his successor, Joshua.
"I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee," the King James Bible translation of Joshua 1:5 reads.
Capt. Joshua McClimans made a similar vow to his son, Max, before leaving for Afghanistan. Even while the Army nurse was caring for patients in a volatile war zone, his duties as a father would continue, even from thousands of miles away.
"Josh and Max were inseparable," the soldier's girlfriend, Melissa Bulebush, told The Unknown Soldiers.
Despite frequent bombings and a poor Internet connection on Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Afghanistan, McClimans made weekly Skype video calls to his son's first-grade class in Ohio, which he had spoken to before deploying. The 30-year-old soldier, who had previously deployed to Iraq, thought it was important for Max and his classmates to understand that our nation is at war.
"They looked up to him as a hero," Ally Wehmann, Max's teacher, told The Akron Beacon Journal.
McClimans did not think of himself as a heroic figure. In his mind, he was simply a nurse who, on occasion, had to do his job in the world's most dangerous places. When McClimans chose to re-enlist in the Army Reserve, he understood the risks.
"He knew he was going to get deployed at some point in time, and he was OK with it," Bulebush, 35, said. "He had a little bit of PTSD from the first time over there, but working with (the) company that he was with in Iraq, he actually enjoyed it. He helped a lot of soldiers."
Those who served with McClimans were in awe of his genuine bravery and medical ingenuity.
"He was such a dedicated nurse and officer who impacted so many lives," Chris Weidlich, McClimans' company commander in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, posted on Facebook. "He always brought a smile to his friends' faces."
On April 22, McClimans was killed in Khost province when terrorists attacked his unit with indirect fire, according to the Pentagon. The dedicated nurse, who served with the 848th Forward Surgical Team, died just six days before Max's 7th birthday.
"I'm not sure how much he's truly understanding," Bulebush said of young Max. "I think seeing Josh's family has really helped him, though."
In addition to his parents and a 13-year-old stepdaughter, McClimans also leaves behind two sisters.
"The best brother in the world," is how Crystal McClimans described Joshua in a Facebook post. "(We) miss you and love you."
When McClimans returned to his hometown of Jamestown, Pa., on May 3 in a flag-draped casket, everyone was his brother and sister. Word was spreading that the hateful Westboro Baptist Church was planning to protest the fallen hero's funeral. Amid their grief, friends, family members and fellow troops quickly banded together to protect their fallen hero.
"I stand guard now ... for three days," Doug Knieriem, who served with McClimans and brought him home, wrote in a dramatic Facebook post. "I will sleep beside him so he is not alone, and he will comfort me, for he loved me as I did him."
In the end, Westboro didn't dare step foot in Jamestown, where Esther McClimans, the fallen soldier's grandmother, is mayor. And despite cold, rainy conditions, hundreds turned out in full force to wave flags, shed tears and comfort a devastated family.
"People have been just unbelievably supportive," Bulebush said. "It's almost like everyone knows everyone."
As is true with thousands of families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, a firm support structure will continue be critical for young Max in the years to come. To truly show our gratitude to the relatives of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we must make the same promise that God made to Joshua. We will not fail them, nor forsake them.
"Josh's Dad, Mike, just keeps giving Max big hugs," Bulebush said. "I think he knows everything will be OK."
In America, everything will be OK, and it's not just because Osama bin Laden can no longer harm us. It's because since a terrible September morning almost 10 years ago, heroes like Capt. Joshua McClimans have fought, and will continue to fight.
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