It took just one date for Alexandra McClintock to realize she wanted to marry the man sitting across from her.

"We were supposed to be taking our dogs out for a walk," she said. "It ended up being 14 hours because we were just talking, then we realized we hadn't eaten all day, so we went to dinner, and we were there until the restaurant closed at midnight. I would've married him right there."

McClintock married the man of her dreams a year later. They celebrated their two-year anniversary this past Christmas Eve. Less than two weeks later, Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock was killed in action in Afghanistan.

Matthew McClintock, 30, was a Special Forces engineer sergeant assigned to 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. He was killed and two other soldiers were wounded Jan. 5 in hours-long fighting near the city of Marjah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province.

Alexandra McClintock had just gotten home from a doctor's appointment when the couple's dog started barking.

"I turned around and saw two men wearing berets outside my door," she said. "I kept screaming at them, 'why are you here?'"

As the soldiers relayed to her the tragic news, "it's like everything went underwater," Alexandra McClintock said.

"Everything was so sharp and so soft at the same time," she said. "You swear, you feel like you are never going to forget any detail, but it's like my life is inside of a hurricane."

Her focus is on the couple's son, Declan, born just three months ago.

Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock with his son Declan.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexandra McClintock

"When you're going through this horrific nightmare, you think that you won't be able to find a reason to smile," she said. "But when I wake up in the morning, that little boy, who looks exactly like my husband, makes me smile."

Two weeks after her husband's death, Alexandra McClintock decided to speak to Army Times in an effort to tell the world about her husband.

"Instead of just Staff Sgt. McClintock, he's Matthew, he's my husband, he's Declan's father," she said.

Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, a member of the Guard, was planning to return to active duty.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexandra McClintock

A serious, skilled and dedicated Green Beret who was trying to go back on active duty, her husband was also funny, silly, romantic and a little bit nerdy, Alexandra McClintock said.

The couple met at a Fear Factory concert.

"He was dragged out by some friends, I was dragged out by some friends, and we just connected," she said.

When it was time to leave, Alexandra McClintock said she'd try to see him around.

"He said, 'Do or do not, there is no try,'" she said. "I was like, 'did you just quote Star Wars to me?' He was like, 'did you just recognize Star Wars?'"

The pair was inseparable after that, Alexandra McClintock said.

"With Matthew, every day, still, I got butterflies," she said. "Every day I fell more in love with him. Every day."

Alexandra McClintock remembers every detail of their first kiss, from his leather jacket to his strawberry ChapStick.

"I'm so happy [to have those memories] but so heartbroken that our son will never get to know his father," Alexandra McClintock said. "He'll never get to know what his hand feels like."

When not in uniform, Matthew McClintock was "the complete opposite of what you'd expect a Green Beret to be like," his wife said.

Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock and Alexandra McClintock bonded over Star Wars.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexandra McClintock

He was "the biggest goofball, a little socially awkward. If he told you a joke and you laughed at it, he'd tell you that joke 10 times over," she said.

"He didn't like carving pumpkins because the insides were icky," she said. "He refused to eat avocados because they reminded him of boogers."

He was also thoughtful, once driving 45 minutes to her office just to slip a card on her windshield, apologizing for a remark he'd made earlier in the day. He loved brownies and cookies.

The couple, who are big Marvel and Stars Wars fans, also would dress up and go to comic book conventions and video game expos together.

"There's nothing he wouldn't do to make me happy," Alexandra McClintock said. "Before, if you'd ask me, 'why do you love about so-and so?' I'd say 'because they made me happy.' If you asked me why I loved Matthew, it's because I wanted to make him happy."

Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock served as a Special Forces engineer sergeant.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexandra McClintock

During their short time together, just like any other military family, the McClintocks worked to "cram as many memories in as we can," she said.

"We've crammed so much love and so many memories into these last three years, I just wish that my son got that, too," she said.

She is grateful to the Army, which "moved mountains" to get Matthew McClintock home from Afghanistan to witness Declan's birth.

"He got to spend two weeks with his little boy," Alexandra McClintock said. "My husband, holding his son, he was glowing. It was just surreal."

Before he died, Matthew McClintock had started the process of returning to the active Army.

The soldier joined the Army in 2006, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He left active-duty in December 2014 after "a very rough Afghanistan deployment when he lost one of his very good friends and teammates," Alexandra McClintock said.

"He was mad, and he had a lot of survivor's guilt, so he got out," she said. "But he didn't want to leave completely, so he stayed in the Guard."

Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock with his son Declan.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexandra McClintock

It took just one drill weekend for her husband to realize he missed the Army, Alexandra McClintock said.

"He loved his job, he was so passionate about it," she said. "My husband's a Green Beret. That's who he is."

Alexandra McClintock said she knew all along that her husband would want to return to active duty. In fact, she and a friend made a friendly bet — she bet that her husband would be back on active duty within a year, while her friend bet that it would only take six months. Her friend won the bet.

Alexandra McClintock said she is sure her husband had no regrets.

"I know if he woke up that day knowing that's how the day was going to go, I know he wouldn't have changed a thing," she said. "I know he would've gone charging out."

Her husband's teammates have since told her that he left a compound, under fire, to find a new landing zone so a helicopter could land and evacuate his wounded teammate, she said.

"He ran out without even thinking about himself," Alexandra McClintock said. "When he got to really do his job and do the job he loved, he came home a happy man."

In the days since her husband died, Alexandra McClintock said she has been overwhelmed by the support she's received. A GoFundMe page set up by a close friend has raised more than $128,200; the original goal was $5,000 to help with immediate costs and needs.

"It's shocking, it's amazing, it's moving," she said. "I can't find the proper words, and usually I'm so verbose. Humbling doesn't even begin to describe it. Because of all this help, I'll be able to stay home with Declan a little longer and raise him. I wish I could thank every single person, but it's impossible."

As she looks to the future, Alexandra McClintock plans to stay in the house she and her husband bought together near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

"I'm staying in Matthew's house, and that's where I'm going to raise our son," she said.

She also is determined to stay connected to his Special Forces brothers. This week, she flew out to North Carolina to visit the wounded teammate her husband saved.

And she has a simple message for him: "This was never his fault. If he's harboring any guilt, that takes the blame away from the man who pulled the trigger and killed my husband. I refuse to let anybody carry that guilt except for the man who killed Matthew."

Focusing on his fellow Green Berets is helping her to cope with her grief, Alexandra McClintock said.

"If they come back and they don't live the best life they can, then my husband died in vain," she said. "And I refuse to let my husband die in vain."

Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.

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