JONESVILLE — U.S. Marine Corps veteran Patrick Cleburne “Clebe” McClary shared his personal testimony of courage, determination and dedication at Mt. Joy Baptist Church Thursday evening.
On March 3, 1968, during his 19th reconnaissance mission in Vietnam, Lt. Clebe McClary was critically wounded by an enemy attack. As a result of his bravery under fire and the concern he demonstrated for his men, McClary was presented the Silver Star and the Bronze Star by the President of the United States, and he has since received numerous awards throughout the country. Although he suffered the loss of his left eye and left arm — and was told he would never walk again — McClary never lost the determination, dedication and courage to overcome his circumstances.
McClary shared his story of hand-to-hand combat while speaking to the crowd at Mt. Joy Baptist’s Family Life Center. He also shared the story of fellow marine Ralph H. Johnson, who dove on a grenade stomach first, saving the lives of McClary and two other marines. McClary said Johnson was the only other South Carolinian with him in Vietnam, and he held up his autobiography — “Living Proof” — which displayed a photo of Johnson. McClary pointed out that the V.A. hospital in Charleston was named after Johnson, along with a street in Charleston. A U.S. Navy destroyer to be built this year will also be named after him.
McClary — a former football coach who enlisted with the U.S. Marines after witnessing student protesters burning an American flag — spent two and a half years in the hospital and has undergone 41 operations to rebuild himself physically. His message on Thursday, however, centered around his spiritual rebuilding.
McClary said he and his wife attended a rally at which one of his heroes — former New York Yankee Bobby Richardson — and former Miss America Vonda Kay Van Dyke were speaking. The speaker who caught his attention most, though, was not a celebrity.
“This guy was a Yankee from Michigan,” McClary said, with his Pawley’s Island accent. “I didn’t like the way he talked. I didn’t like his hairstyle. I didn’t like anything about him, but God used him to change my life for eternity.”
McClary went on to quote the man from Michigan.
“He said, ‘There are two kinds of fools in this world — a fool for Christ and a fool for others. Whose fool are you?’” McClary recounted. “I never drank or cussed or smoked. I was so good, I was good for nothing. So many people told me I was a Christian, I thought I was.”
McClary said he and his wife already attended church and had Bible study and devotions before going to the rally.
“We had a whole lot in our head, but nothing in our heart,” he said. “We found the real joy — the real peace so many are searching for — that comes from a personal relationship with the living Savior.”
McClary said he believes Americans should turn back to the word of God, giving examples of statistics illustrating a decline within each generation of those who believe in a personal relationship with Christ.
McClary then warned those in attendance to be careful with the influences — positive and negative — in their lives. He mentioned the thousands of Vietnam veterans who have committed suicide in the U.S., and he said there are currently 22 suicides per day among active-duty military members today. McClary then said suicide is the No. 2 killer among all young people today.
“Parents, what have we done in this country,” he asked. “We’ve meant well, but we’ve made a mistake. We’ve tried to give our children everything we didn’t have. Everything money can buy. You know, maybe we ought to give them what we had. A few things money can’t buy. Honesty. Integrity. Morals. Discipline. Commitment. Manners. Simple things, but important things. We give them iPads, smart phones, four wheelers, trucks, boats. We’ve given them everything to live with, but we haven’t given them anything to live for.”
“And there’s only one thing to live for, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ,” he added.
McClary then brought up scripture — Romans 5:3-5 — which discusses suffering.
“We rejoice in our suffering,” McClary paraphrased. “Suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; and character produces hope.”
McClary then compared life to a baseball diamond, explaining that one must “tag each base.” He used salvation as an example of first base and baptism as an example of second base.
“Being baptized is a perfect portrait of the gospel,” McClary said. “We’re all going to die, but only one rose again. That’s all (baptism) is, is a painting of the gospel — the death, the burial and the resurrection.”
McClary then used a stage of life in which Christians give tithes, time and service as third base, and he said Heaven is “home plate.” He then referred to the 1924 World Series game in which Leon “Goose” Goslin rounded the bases, slid into home, and was called out by the umpire, even though he appeared to be safe. The umpire announced Goslin was out because he failed to tag first base. McClary then reiterated the importance of a real and personal relationship with Christ.
For more information about Clebe McClary, his testimony, or his books including his autobiography “Living Proof,” visit www.clebemcclary.com.