Retired Marine Lt. Clebe McClary delivered a message of hope, faith and patriotism on Sunday, Feb. 27, at Easthill Baptist Church in Bartlett even as Russian military forces prepared to attack the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv.
The Vietnam veteran who lost his left arm, an eye and nearly his life in a battle with enemy forces on a hill in Vietnam was guest speaker at the church’s Patriotic Sunday celebration. It featured the Cordova High School JROTC Honor and Color guards, Boy Scouts from Ellendale Troop 450, and retired and active military personnel in addition to church leaders, its congregation, and visitors.
Local Marine (Ret.) Master Sgt. Jim Brown also was honored Sunday for his service in the military and as a longtime teacher and administrator with Memphis City Schools.
McClary recounted his harrowing experience on Hill 146 in the Quon Duc Valley south of Da Nang, where he and a small collection of Marines with the First Reconnaissance Battalion were carrying out a mission to make way for thousands of U.S. soldiers to descend on that area.
Under attack by forces who were storming the hill, McClary had his arm blown off below the elbow by a grenade and shrapnel from another one went directly into his left eye before enemy soldiers overtook the pit he was in. One solider shot him pointblank to execute McClary, but the bullet hit his neck instead of his head. He feigned death and waited for what seemed an eternity but made it out alive.
McClary earned The Silver Star, The Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his service.
He has been traveling the country for years to attest to his love of country, Jesus Christ, and how important it is for America to turn back to the word of God.
In his address, he recounted tales of his time in Vietnam, mixed with personal stories of his beloved wife, Deanna, his family, and occasional jokes.
“We need to turn back to the word of God. We need to turn back to Bible study and prayer,” McClary said.
Because of his Christian beliefs and message, McClary said he is not invited to speak at certain places, but when he is able to address younger generations, he sees and hears how interested they are in learning about God.
“There are two kinds of fools in this world, fools for Christ and fools for others,” he said.
He hates that religion and the Bible have been removed from public schools, saying it has caused a change in society that is leading America down the wrong path.
Today, he sees a lack of pride – the kind of pride that demands personal responsibility and inspires people to get up early and stay late to get their work done.
“There are not enough people willing to give what it takes, what it takes for faith, family, flag, friends and freedom,” he said.
Later, while signing copies of his book, “Living Proof,” McClary talked about the situation in Ukraine and other things.
“I wish we had different leadership in Washington right now,” he said of the Russia invasion. “I feel awful for those (Ukrainian) people. I’m not sure what we should be doing. I don’t know what the answer is, but it looks like Russia is wanting the old Soviet Union back.”
He is also concerned that other nations may be inspired to make similar decisions.
“I’m worried about what China is thinking about Taiwan,” he said.
But traveling the states giving inspirational speeches for years, he sees the changes in people first-hand.
“We’re losing our Christian values. I just don’t know how we stay free without having those values,” he said. “To me, I think the country is in the worst shape it’s been in since World War II.”