SSgt. Daniel Clay’s Letter to His Family

U.S. Marine SSgt. Daniel Clay was killed in action in Iraq on December 1, 2005. Before leaving home for his second tour in Iraq, Sgt Clay left a letter with his family and an instruction to open the letter only in the event of his death. After Clay’s death, his father Bud wrote the following letter to President Bush:

December 7, 2005

President George Bush,

The White House,
Washington, DC.


My name is Bud Clay. My son, SSgt Daniel Clay–USMC was killed last week, 12/01/05, in Iraq. He was one of the ten Marines killed by the IED in Fallujah.

Dan was a Christian–he knew Jesus as Lord and Savior–so we know where he is. In his final letter (one left with me for the family–to be read in case of his death) he says “if you are reading this, it means my race is over.” He’s home now–his and our real home.

I am writing to you–to tell you how proud and thankful we (his parents and family) are of you and what you are trying to do to protect us all. This was Dan’s second tour in Iraq–he knew and said that his being there was to protect us.

I want to encourage you. I hear in your speeches about “staying the course”. I also know that many are against you in this “war on Terror” and that you must get weary in the fight to do what is right. We and many others are praying for you to see this through–as Lincoln said, “that these might not have died in vain”.

You have a heavy load–we are praying for you.

God bless you,


Text of Sgt. Daniel Clay’s Letter to His Family


Boy do I love each and every one of you. This letter being read means that I have been deemed worthy of being with Christ. With MaMa Jo, MaMa Clay, Jennifer …. all those we have been without for our time during the race. This is not a bad thing. It is what we hope for. The secret it out. He lives and His promises are real! It is not faith that supports this …. but fact and I now am a part of the promise. Here is notice! Wake up! All that we hope for is Real. Not a hope. But Real.

But here is something tangible. What we have done in Iraq is worth any sacrifice. Why? Because it was our duty. That sounds simple. But all of us have a duty. Duty is defined as a God given task. Without duty life is worthless. It holds no type of fulfillment. The simple fact that our bodies are built for work has to lead us to the conclusion that God (who made us) put us together to do His work. His work is different for each of us.

Mom, yours was to be the glue of our family, to be a pillar for those women (all women around you), Dad, yours was to train and build us (like a Platoon Sgt) to better serve Him. Kristie, Kim, Katy you are the five team leaders who support your Squad ldrs, Jodie, Robert and Richard. Lisa you too. You are my XO and you did a hell of a job. You all have your duties. Be thankful that God in His wisdom gives us work. Mine was to ensure that you did not have to experience what it takes to protect what we have as a family. This I am so thankful for. I know what honor is. It is not a word to be thrown around. It has been an Honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to. This is as close to Christ-like I can be. That emulation is where all honor lies. I thank you for making it worthwhile.

As a Marine this is not the last Chapter. I have the privilege of being one who has finished the race. I have been in the company of heroes. I now am counted among them. Never falter! Don’t hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting.

Now here are my final wishes. Do not cry! To do so is to not realize what we have placed all our hope and faith in. We should not fear. We should not be sad. Be thankful. Be so thankful. All we hoped for is true. Celebrate! My race is over, my time in war zone is over. My trials are done. A short time separates all of us from His reality. So laugh. Enjoy the moments and your duty. God is wonderful.

I love each and every one of you.

Spread the word …. Christ lives and He is Real.

Semper Fidelis

2018-08-07T15:41:15+00:00By |5 Comments

About the Author:

Rick Keyt has practiced law in Arizona since 1980. He flew the F-4 Phantom for five years in the United States Air Force, including combat missions over South Vietnam, North Vietnam and Laos in 1972. For more about Rick's bio including his F-4 bio see his resume on his law website. Connect with Richard at 480-664-7478 or on Google+


  1. Landon Combs December 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    I had the honor of serving with this man, and words can’t express the love I have for him and the pride I feel reading his words. Semper Fidelis brother!

  2. Timothy T Wilson February 2, 2014 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Thank you for publishing SSgt Clay’s letter on the internet.

    My wife, Patti, and I knew Dan since he was a little three year old boy dressing up in a Superman outfit to protect his family and our neighborhood in Pensacola, Florida. He grew up in a loving family environment and matured into a fine young man who conducted himself in a most admirable way. Upon enlisting in the Marine Corps he evolved into a strong dedicated Marine admired by his family and friends.

    Dan’s poignant letter is truly inspiring. His sense of duty to his family, country and especially to God were his guidelines to lead a good Christian life. My wife and I were saddened by his tragic death but know that his sacrifice was for the safety and security of the United States.

    The citizens of our country are fortunate that many other young men and women like Dan feel a sense of duty to serve in some capacity. They deserve to be remembered for their sacrifices. Your posting of this letter has certainly honored this young man and his family.

    Semper Fi

    Timothy T Wilson

    Timothy T Wilson

  3. Steve Patrick January 19, 2015 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    I will never forget the evening I was sitting at home watching the President’s State of the Union Address and learned of Dan’s passing. I left the Marine Corps in March 2004. I served with then Sgt. Clay at Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company, Chesapeake Virginia. We were both combat weapons instructors on the same team. I was a Corporal and really was impressed with Dan’s enthusiasm and spirit. He was an impeccable Marine. A Marine’s Marine. Dan was always an example to me of what a Marine exemplified. I am so sorry for his family and their loss. It will be great to see him again some day when we get to heaven. I’m sure he’s probably up there talkin’ to St. Paul…”Road to Damascus? Yeah, but I was in Parris Island dude!” He and I would always laugh and bring up this line from that Chris Rock act…”Officer! He got weed! He got weeeed!!!” Semper Fi Brother.

  4. Roberto canizalez May 21, 2015 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    I had the honor to serve with Ssgt Clay. I was a young marine and he was a set at the time. He was a roll model and a motivator. I live in VA and take my kids to vist him at Arlington cemetery. A great American hero

  5. Michael Larson December 1, 2015 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    He was a great man and leader. He showed me I could be a leader and made me one. I was in the explosion that took his life. I met President Bush before he gave that address. I watched the address from my hospital bed and it inspired the shit out of me. He would have been honored that he read his letter. It was an honor and pleasure to serve under him. His wisdom still echos in me everyday as I strive to be the man he saw me to be. RIP Staff Sergent Clay and Semper Fidelis!

    LCPL Michael Larson USMC ret.

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