Monday, February 26, 2007

Clinton Ahlquist remembered

CREEDE - This community is mourning the loss of a young Marine who was killed Tuesday while fighting in Iraq.

Marine Sgt. Clinton Wayne Ahlquist, 23, a member of Creede High School’s class of 2003, was killed in Ar Ramadi in the Iraqi province of Anbar when he stepped on an improvised explosive device.

His mother, Barbara Ahlquist of Scottsdale, Ariz., said she was at work when she was called back home about 10 a.m. Tuesday. Her husband, Rex, was waiting for her with two Marines.

Ahlquist died after tripping an IED while guarding a Medivac helicopter, Mrs. Ahlquist said from her Scottsdale home Thursday.

Mrs. Ahlquist said her son wanted a military life from the time he was 4.

“At Halloween, Clint would always dress up as GI Joe. He decided to join the Marines because they were the best of the best, he said,” his mother recalled.

She said Ahlquist enlisted in the Marines on June 23, 2003, shortly after graduating from school in Creede.

“He was tough. He ranked quite high in his class at boot camp at Camp Pendleton (near San Diego) even though he completed his final humps with a broken foot. He re-enlisted when he was in Iraq the last time,” Mrs. Ahlquist said. “Clint was proud to be a Marine, to fight for his country, to protect us and freedom.”

His mother noted that Ahlquist was among seven or eight Marines selected from 600 during his first tour of duty to train with the Army Special Forces and received a commendation from the Army for his outstanding work.

At the time of his death, he was in charge of a Marine infantry squad that would go out on night raids.

Mrs. Ahlquist said she and her husband spoke with their son on Sunday and he was upset because he had lost his master sergeant a couple of days before.

“He was a good kid, such a good kid,” she said.

When Ahlquist was a sophomore in high school in the Scottsdale area, he told his parents, “ ‘I am just a number here. The kids are only interested in BMWs, Corvettes and the GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) look. I want to go to school where I can see what I can do,’ ” Mrs. Ahlquist recalled.

At the suggestion of her sister, Ahlquist came to live in Creede with a cousin, Liz Sawatzky, and her family, who operated Blessings Inn.

Almost immediately, the big, good-looking kid was the big man on campus. In his 10-member class, he was one of only three boys.

“He loved Creede. He blossomed there,” Mrs. Ahlquist said.

The next year, the family bought a home in Creede, where Ahlquist lived until graduation.

Ahlquist and classmate Karly Kolish, a year his junior and daughter of Mineral County Commissioner Carl Kolish and school librarian Frances Kolish,, became an item at the school.

Frances Kolish considered Ahlquist part of the family. Her daughter, now a political science major at University of California at San Diego, is devastated by Ahlquist’s death although the two went their separate ways several years ago, she said.

Ahlquist spent three-fourths of the time with the Kolishes, Mrs. Kolish said.

When Ahlquist enlisted, he left his dog, Grinchy, a Queensland heeler, with the Kolishes. Mrs. Ahlquist said with a laugh that she and her husband have to visit Creede often to see their “granddog.”

Creede schools Superintendent Buck Stroh recalled Ahlquist. “He was full of energy, very outgoing,” Stroh recalled, looking over the 2003 yearbook and its 11-member boys’ basketball team, with five of those young men in the service in some capacity.

Stroh noted that Ahlquist was in journalism all three years he was at the school and was editor of the yearbook and school paper his senior year. As a junior and senior, he was class vice president. He was active in Future Business Leaders of America, was prom king his junior year and was on the Arby’s All-Star Basketball team his senior year.

His coach, Aaron Christensen, recalled, “Clint was very conscious of what was going on around him and of people’s feelings. He was respectful, a model citizen; he was never one of those kids who gets in trouble and one of those young men the younger kids looked up to.

“He really thrived on a team. . . he wanted be part of the team and was happy to be around a group of guys. That might have been one of the reasons he went to the Marines. I am really sad to see him go,” Christensen said.

“It’s a small town. We all know everybody. This affects the whole community, not just the school,” Stroh said, adding that there will be a memorial service for Ahlquist and the school will erect a plaque to the young Marine’s memory.

Ahlquist was born Dec. 1, 1983, in Scottsdale. He was in the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force stationed out of Camp Pendleton.

Ahlquist did two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Okinawa.

The Ahlquists plan to bury their only child in the family plot in a Phoenix-area cemetery. He was the only grandson of both sets of grandparents, and family members said he will be missed greatly.

From the Chieftan

Related Link:
Clinton W. Ahlquist killed during combat operations