Army Spc. Hilda Clayton served her country as a combat cameraman for the 55th Signal Company out of Fort Meade, Md. Her job on July 2, 2013 was to photograph a live-fire combat training session in Laghman Province, Afghanistan.
At that time, U.S. troops were training Afghan National Army soldiers as part of partnership between the two countries aimed at stabilizing the region. Clayton and four ANA soldiers died that July day when a mortar tube accidentally exploded during the exercise.
Clayton, amazingly, captured the moment of her death.
The photograph was recently published by the Military Review journal in an edition devoted to promoting gender equality in the military, showing the dangers faced by military men and women in combat situations.
Combat Camera soldiers are trained to take still and video imagery in any environment. Their primary mission is to accompany combat soldiers wherever deployed to document the history of combat operations. Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts.
Clayton was posthumously honored by the 55th Signal Company by having her name engraved into the Hall of Heroes at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade.