KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Within weeks of arriving in Afghanistan, the 1433rd Engineer Company lost its first soldier. While conducting a route clearance mission, Michigan National Guardsmen Sgt. Kyle McClain suffered fatal wounds from an explosion Aug. 1.

A memorial ceremony was held in honor of McClain on Forward Operating Base Pasab Aug. 6. Members of his unit gathered to pay their respects to their fallen comrade and reflect on the life of a man they not only respected as a soldier, but considered a dear brother.

"Over these past few years I have had the honor of getting to know Sgt. McClain," said Michigan National Guardsmen Staff Sgt. Melvin Lafernier, a fellow platoon member. "As soon as I met McClain it seemed as if he had an aura about him. He had the ability to make people laugh, even in the worst of conditions. He was the kind of friend everyone needed."

Regarded as a great soldier, his charisma did not go unnoticed by his command.

"He was a great soldier and natural leader. He set the example for others in his platoon to follow," said Michigan National Guardsmen Capt. Todd Falor, commander of the 1433rd En. Co. "When I watched 2nd Platoon training, nobody trained harder than Sgt. McClain. When 2nd Plt. was not working or training, Sgt. McClain was always there in the middle of whatever was going on and he would be the one with the biggest smile of anybody there."

In Falor's remarks to those attending the ceremony, he passed along advice given by McClain's wife, urging members of the 1433rd to cherish the time they have and to treat it as their last.

"I was amazed by how strong she was," Falor said. "We talked about Sgt. McClain and his commitment and love for the Army. She was extremely proud of her husband and his service."

Located in one of the most active areas in southern Afghanistan, the loss of McClain came as an unwelcomed yet familiar circumstance for Lt. Col. Michael Cleveland, 223rd En. Battalion commander, which the 1433rd works for during this deployment.

"We told you what to expect and that the mission you would embark contains significant risks. You have experienced the brutality of war. You have tasted it and you have lived it," remarked Cleveland. "Sgt. McClain was a brave warrior who led the way. He knew the risks and he gave his best, ultimately giving his life."

Members of the 1433rd will continue to carry the memory of McClain with them, throughout this deployment and beyond. The impacts he made both professionally and personally will never be forgotten by his brothers in arms.

"The last time I had seen McClain he had looked at me and smiled," said Lafernier. "I didn't understand it at the time but, I understand it now, he loved his job. He loved us, and we loved him."

McClain is survived by his wife and parents. He will be missed and never forgotten by his brothers in arms of the 1433rd Engineer Company, and the men and women of the 223rd Engineer Battalion and the 411th Engineer Brigade.