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Wounded vet urges others to 'keep going'

Cleburne "Clebe" McClary brings humor and inspiration to father-son banquet

June 16, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Clebe McClary delivers an inspirational talk Saturday night before fathers and sons of Maugansville Bible Brethren Church.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

MAUGANSVILLE, Md. — His left sleeve is empty and he wears a patch over one eye, but Clebe McClary has not let the injuries he received more than four decades ago in Vietnam dampen his spirit.

The Christian motivational speaker was the guest speaker Saturday night at the Bible Brethren Church father-son banquet, regaling a room of about 100 sons, fathers and grandfathers with a mixture of humor and inspiration.

Patrick Cleburne “Clebe” McClary was a young Marine Corps lieutenant leading a platoon on a reconnaissance patrol when his unit was ambushed. A satchel charge blew off his arm and a grenade took his eye and disfigured his right hand. He sustained other injuries that night, but his life and that of other Marines was saved by Ralph Johnson, who threw himself on another grenade.

“I didn’t want to live so bad in all my life,” said McClary, who spent more than two years undergoing dozens of surgeries.

“You’ll have some tough days ... but get up, take another step and keep going,” McClary said in a deep Southern drawl. He told the fathers and sons to never give up on education, never quit a job unless you have another to go to and “never give up on married life.”

He told them never to give up on life, lamenting that suicide now is the second-highest cause of death in the military.

McClary did not have to go to Vietnam — he had a college coaching job. When he saw an American flag burned by a student protester, he decided to join the Marines, he said.

He grew up in church, but did not become a Christian until he was an adult and married, McClary said.

“So many people told me I was a Christian, I believed it,” he said. Through Christ, he said he and his wife, Deanna, “found the real joy. The real peace.”

Before his speech, McClary talked about what he believes is a major problem for young people.

“They’re starved for discipline. That’s not their fault. It’s their daddies’ fault,” he said.

McClary would like to see young people give two years of public service, whether in the military, Peace Corps or in health care, in exchange for college scholarships.

“We believe his story is so powerful that we wanted him to share it with us ... That you can prevail against difficult circumstances,” Pastor Sean Coffey said. “If anyone had an excuse to sit down and do nothing, it’s him.”

“He’s not a victim. He’s a leader,” Coffey said.

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