A 21-year-old soldier killed last week in Afghanistan became the 11th former Clovis Unified student who has died in an overseas war zone since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
The Department of Defense announced Thursday that Army Spc. Thomas J. Mayberry, formerly of Clovis, and two other soldiers were killed in the Wardak province of Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device.
Mayberry attended Clovis Unified schools from the sixth through 10th grades, including Temperance-Kutner Elementary, Reyburn Intermediate, Clovis High and Gateway, the district's continuation high school, according to district spokeswoman Kelly Avants.
Mayberry graduated from Citrus High School in Porterville in November 2008, according to Porterville Unified School District records. He attended the school for a short time, Superintendent John Snavely said.
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Betsy Clemings of Clovis, Mayberry's sixth-grade teacher at Temperance-Kutner, said Mayberry was "the kind of kid you always remember." News of his death "is tragic to hear," she said.
"He was a very sweet child, very engaging and very funny," Clemings said. "He was a typical happy-go-lucky kid."
After Mayberry "got into a little trouble" in junior high, Clemings said, he wrote her a letter. "It was a letter thanking me for being his teacher. It was very heartfelt and part of his effort to improve himself. That meant a lot to me."
Debbra Swenson of Clovis recalls being surprised when Mayberry, who she described as her son's best friend, enlisted in the Army two years ago. "But I was proud of him for what he was doing," she said.
"He was like a second son to me," Swenson said. "I prayed for him when he went there. I hoped he would be safe."
Mayberry stayed at Swenson's home for a few weeks after boot camp. "I saw big changes in him," she said.
The Department of Defense said Mayberry was survived by a wife. Swenson declined to discuss Mayberry's wife or his family, out of respect for their privacy, but said funeral services for him will be held out of state on Monday. Swenson's son declined to talk about his friend.
Mayberry is the 44th service member with ties to the Valley to have died in an overseas war zone since 9/11.
The other two soldiers killed with Mayberry were Sgt. 1st Class Clark A. Corley Jr., 35, of Oxnard and Spc. Ryan M. Lumley, 21, of Lakeland, Fla. All three were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team from Fort Bliss, Texas.
Mayberry joined the Army in January 2009, according to defense department records. His previous assignments included Fort Benning, Ga., and Camp Casey, Korea.
Mayberry's awards and decorations included the National Defense Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with a Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist.
Tulare County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Ennis on Thursday requested all U.S. flags be flown at half-staff at county buildings in remembrance of Mayberry.