A solder from Wilkes County who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan Sunday is scheduled to be flown from a hospital in Germany to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
Although Pfc. Chance Cleary is still in a coma from the blast of an improvised explosive device (IED) Sunday in Afghanistan and his long-term prognosis is uncertain, family members say there have been promising signs.
Cleary, a 2010 graduate of East Wilkes High School, had surgery related to a broken jawbone Thursday morning and came through it well, said his step-grandfather, Martin Cheek of North Wilkesboro.
In addition to head trauma and a broken jawbone, Cleary’s vertebrae were injured and he has a broken leg, collar bone and wrist.
Cheek said Cleary will leave Germany on a military plane and is expected to arrive at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Friday afternoon or night. His parents are taking a commercial flight and are expected to arrive in Washington before him. Cleary’s father and stepmother, Lynn and Denise Cleary, and his mother, April Cleary, left Monday night for Germany.
Cleary and three other soldiers were traveling in a Humvee when the explosion occurred in Ahmad-Kheyl, Afghanistan. The commander and driver of the vehicle, Staff Sgt. Thomas K. Fogarty, 30, of Alameda, Calif., was killed.
All four soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.
Cleary has been in the Army about 1 ½ years and in Afghanistan since November.
When 117 seniors in the East Wilkes High class of 2010 were about to graduate, at least eight of them planned to enter the military.
They include Cleary, Nathan Tharpe, John Paul Caudill, Dylan Jessup and James Myers, all in a civics and economics class taught by Jan Alexander Jacobs the fall of their senior year.
Tharpe and Caudill are U.S. Marines serving in Afghanistan. Myers and Jessup are in the Army and are serving elsewhere.
Mrs. Jacobs, a Roaring River native and retired teacher who spent the last eight years of her career at East Wilkes. In an interview Thursday, she remembered Cleary, Tharpe, Caudill, Myers and Jessup as “good kids and strong patriots.
Based on classroom discussions of current events and other conversations involving the five, she believed “they absolutely knew the risks and were bound to serve their country.”
She said having a son in the Army helped her connect with the five students. Mrs. Jacob still communicates with most of them on Facebook
Her son, 1st Lt. Peter Jacob, became commissioned through Army ROTC at Appalachian State University. He is in eastern Afghanistan as a member of the U.S Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Jacob’s wife, Jada Parsons Jacob, is Wilkes County native.
Myers’ brother, 2008 East Wilkes graduate Preston Myers, is also in the Army. Tharpe’s sister, Salem College graduate Lindsay Tharpe, works for the U.S. Department of Defense at Bagram Air Force Base in Kabul, Afghanistan. Preston Myers and Ms. Tharpe graduated from East Wilkes before 2010.
Another soldier from eastern Wilkes, Zach Jolly of Roaring River, was deployed in Afghanistan from May 10, 2011, through the end of March. He is based in Alaska.