Before 30-year-old Matthew McClintock deployed for his third combat tour to the Middle East, he had to submit a document outlining his last wishes.
The exercise was an indicator of the inherent danger of Matt's job as a Green Beret, but it was a task he and his wife Allie approached with irreverence.
“One time he told me that he wanted to be blasted up to the moon,” she said. “Because to us it was just never a reality.”
But last month Matthew was killed during an intense firefight in the city of Marja. Two other U.S. soldiers and four Afghan soldiers were wounded.
Allie was shocked. Matthew had told her only that he was going on a training mission.
“He was going to go teach people stuff," she said.
But being married to a Special Forces soldier often means accepting few details about long separations. Even when he was back in Tacoma between deployments, he never wore his uniform around Allie; he’d change before he got home.
So when two Green Berets pulled up outside Allie’s house last month and came through the white picket fence to front porch, her first thought was that Matthew was injured.
“Maybe he fell and hurt his ankle. He’s kind of clumsy sometimes, and I knew his foot had been bothering him,” she said.
“When they told me he was dead ... everything went grey.”
Allie had lost her soul mate. They had been married three years.
Matthew was nerdy and romantic. He charmed Allie with his love of Star Wars and quotes from Yoda.
“Being in love before, it was because I loved somebody because they made me happy," Allie said. "With Matthew, I loved him because I wanted to make him happy."
Allie last saw Matthew in November, when he came home briefly from the Middle East. The occasion was the birth of their first child — a boy named Declan.
“He’s such an amazing little boy and he so like his father already," Allie said of her now three-month-old infant. "I can already see Matthew in him with everything he does."
Since Matthew died, a curtain has lifted for Allie. She’s learned more about his life as a Green Beret from the soldiers he served with than he ever revealed himself. They told her Matthew was killed trying to help to one of his wounded teammates.
“Hearing the things his teammates said about him, I was in awe," she said. "He wasn’t just my nerdy husband. He was a bad ass."
The military community — and others — have rallied around her. Supporters gathered for a memorial run in Seattle, and donations to the family’s GoFundMe page have topped $140,000. McClintock says the support has been overwhelming, humbling and inspiring.
“I can’t just stay in bed. I have to get up and keep moving. I have to make sure that these people know that they’ve made a difference. That Matthew made a difference,” she said.
Allie now is planning Matthew’s funeral for real, this time with the reverence that a fallen soldier has earned. He’ll be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
But Allie says there’s no date yet. His unit nominated him for a Silver Star, and she’s waiting for it.
“My husband will be buried with that on his chest because it’s a hero’s chest, and that’s what he deserves," she said.
"All I have now is to stand for Matthew and to stand for Declan. Matthew stood for all of us when he fell."
This story was produced as part of the American Homefront Project, a collaboration of North Carolina Public Radio/WUNC, Southern California Public Radio, and KUOW Seattle.