Two months after giving his life to save a friend, under a clear blue sky and in front of those who loved him most, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew McClintock was laid to rest Monday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Green Beret, who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his final heroic actions, died Jan. 5 during an hours-long firefight in southern Afghanistan. Two others were wounded during the fight near the city of Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
"It's been two months, and it feels like it's been three years, 30 years and two seconds all at the same time," McClintock's wife, Alexandra, said. "It feels like I just blinked."
McClintock, 30, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. He is survived by his wife and the couple's four-month-old son Declan.
Since his death, Alexandra McClintock has coped by taking care of others.
"To me, there's nothing that matters anymore other than Declan and [McClintock's] team, people that are actually crying themselves to sleep at night because they can't imagine a world without Matthew in it," she said. "I know I'm not the only one. He was the greatest guy."
Focusing on taking care of those around her has helped her cope, Alexandra McClintock said.
"It's not that I'm some great humanitarian. But I know how much Matt would have done if it would've been any of his teammates," she said.
Alexandra McClintock has also relied heavily on her husband's Special Forces teammates, who are now home from Afghanistan.
"I'm sure I'm a glaring reminder of the worst day of their life, because everyone loved Matt," she said.
His team and the Army have been "phenomenal," Alexandra McClintock said.
"It's a step in a direction to feeling like I'm still part of a family," she said. "I haven't had to do anything alone. I haven't had to be alone if I didn't want to be."
Alexandra McClintock met her future husband at a Fear Factory concert.
It took just one date for her to know she had found the love of her life. Their first kiss, in the parking lot of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, left her "knees shaking."
"I never believed in soul mates or true loves or any of that nonsense, but I got that with Matthew," she said. "Matthew changed me, but not on purpose, not intentionally, he never set into the relationship trying to change who I was."
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew McClintock and Alexandra McClintock met at a Fear Factory concert and had their first kiss in a Buffalo Wild Wings parking lot.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexandra McClintock
Her husband showed her it was OK to care about people and issues and the world around her, Alexandra McClintock said. It was something she wasn't used to growing up in a family she described as "not emotional."
"He made it OK for me to care, and I'm a little mad at him about that right now because I care so deeply about everything," she said.
The couple lived to make each other happy, Alexandra McClintock said.
"I wanted to be the best wife I could possibly be, because the only thing that mattered was making Matt happy," she said. "I loved seeing him smile, the way his eyes would crinkle up in the corners, and his eyes would just light up. He had the most beautiful smile, and I would do anything to see it."
Alexandra McClintock said she's been overwhelmed by the love and support she's received since her husband died.
"I don't think he ever knew how important he was to everybody," she said.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew McClintock with his son Declan.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Alexandra McClintock
In his short life, her husband accomplished the three big goals in his life: marry a loving wife, have a son and become a Green Beret, Alexandra McClintock said.
"He checked off the big boxes of what he wanted to do in his life," she said. "But I think Matt still had things to do, like teaching Declan how to throw a ball. Now we have this son, and my husband doesn't get to teach him how to throw a ball, and that sucks."
She's certain, however, that her husband's Special Forces teammates are up to the task.
"When one Green Beret dies, it seems like you inherit the rest of them," she said. "Declan has a whole lot of very cool uncles. Declan's lucky he's a boy and not a girl, because if she was a girl, she would never date."
As she pushes forward, Alexandra McClintock said she's trying to be strong for her son.
"I really don't think I'm that strong. I think it's just I don't have any other options," she said. "Anybody put in the same situation would do the same thing. They would care for the teammates, they would keep their head up, and they would live the best life they could for their husband."
She draws strength from her memories of her husband and the time they shared together.
"I can survive on the memories that we have," she said. "I have to believe that if I live a life to be proud of, if I raise our son the best I can, that I will see him again. I've had a good life, but Matt made it an amazing life."