Release Date: February 14, 2022
War interrupts everything normal in life… except for love. In this episode you’ll hear stories of people falling in love, people keeping love alive, and love keeping people alive.
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(HOST): [00:00:01] I have a letter here written by Major Ray Stice to his wife, Elizabeth. Stice was a Marine fighter pilot stationed in Chu Lai, while Elizabeth was looking after their four children in Austin, Texas. This letter is one of 460 that the couple wrote to each other during his 13 months in Vietnam. Their daughter, Robin Maroney, has every one of them. This paragraph, written in February 1967, really struck me. He writes, takes a war to make people realize there are such things in life as love and families, and a reason for things. Many reasons, and I’m never too old to learn a few things about life. I’ve learned a few new things over here, that’s for sure. Like how extremely fortunate we are to have each other’s love. I guess that’s the most important thing. War interrupts life, bringing anything that resembles normal to a screeching halt, but love love just keeps going. You can’t stop it. Today is St. Valentine’s Day, and in this episode you’ll hear stories of people falling in love. People keeping love alive. And people clinging to love as if their lives depend on it. Which in this case, they do. From the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, founders of the Wall. This is Echoes of the Vietnam War. I’m your host, Michael Croan, bringing you stories of service, sacrifice and healing for people who still feel the impact of that conflict. Nearly 50 years later. This is episode 22, Vietnam Love Stories. Stanley Rosenberg went to medical school at the University of Michigan to help his parents pay down his student debt. He joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Carol Connolly went to the St. Louis School of Nursing in Cleveland and then joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Their paths crossed in 1970 at the 85th evacuation hospital in Phu Bai, just a warning, this story contains vivid descriptions of injury and death.
(CAROL): [00:02:32] I always knew I was going to be a nurse, and I also was Vietnam, and I figured our kids were getting drafted and being sent over there, the least you could do is volunteer To go over and help.
(STANLEY): [00:02:45] If you watch television, you would see body counts being reported. There was people marching in the streets. I knew something was wrong. Top to bottom. But like Carol, I didn’t care if I was going to be a physician, I was going to help the GI. And that was it.
(CAROL): [00:03:09] And you were going to be drafted and sent anyway. So you might as well volunteer.
(STANLEY): [00:03:12] That’s true.
(CAROL): [00:03:14] Basic training, in Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and I was there for a year and then they came in one Friday afternoon and says, you’re going to Vietnam, you’ve got till Wednesday to clear you’ve got two weeks off and you’re over there. Oh, my God. You know, I was like, what am I going to do now? You know, and I was the only female on that plane to Vietnam. And then we ended up in Long Bien and they put me in a trailer and I was the only female. And then we ran like crazy, and then we would get into the airport. All of a sudden, all the guys are waiting for this plane to leave, stand up and cheer. They gave us a standing ovation because that meant that there was going to be an empty plane to take them out of country. Yeah, I was, like totally overwhelmed.
(STANLEY): [00:04:07] We came into Long Bien very it was late at night, very late at night, and we got off the plane and it was hot. I don’t remember heat like that and wet and it stunk to put it blunt, but it stunk. A mixture of animal and fish and dirt (and human sweat) and sweat. It was like, what? And it kind of finally just occurred to me that I’m not in Kansas anymore, you know? And then they took us. They put us on armored buses. And we rolled through the countryside on these armored buses, no lights, and it was almost like when one of those horror movies where you see these deserted shacks and buildings go by, now I’m thinking, Oh, this might not be as much fun as I thought. And they took me to a trailer with some other guys to wait. And then I get into the trailer and all of a sudden. The ground started to shake, and I started hearing these sounds slam, slam, thud. It was a B-52 strike on the perimeter. There had been some incursions. And the one thing I remember is the pressure waves hit your ears. I never felt anything like it before. You have no concept of what what kind of an impact on a B-52 bomber makes until you just feel it through your whole body. And I thought, I can swim home from here. Just give me a shot. I can swim all the way. And I stayed there for. Don’t know, three or four days until they brought me into the office, one of the offices and said, I’ll never forget this. And this is where you’re going. It’s Phu Bai, Phu Bai is all right. And that was our motto. By the way, Phu Bai is all right. They needed a new anesthesia person, put me in a jeep and shipped me up.
(CAROL): [00:06:15] I just was processed down at Bin Y, and then I went straight to the fifth.
(STANLEY): [00:06:20] Carol did with dealt with medical. I dealt with almost exclusively trauma, and I had never seen trauma at that level or that either. As bad as that or as much as that,
(CAROL): [00:06:34] There is a bit. We were the busiest trauma center in the entire country at that stage.
(STANLEY): [00:06:40] Firebase Sword was just the subject of a brutal long term assault by the VC. And they got casualties and we got lots of them. It was just like three days of nothing but bodies. Blood. Terrifying. Um, I saw one thing there that. Excuse me. I saw a GI who got hit by a phosphorous grenade. And phosphorus grenade punctures is you with thousands of little bits of phosphorus and they burn and they steam. And to this day, I can’t talk about it, but that was I mean, I saw a lot of bad stuff, but that and the burns horrifying. And I remember one day. One of the surgeons was more experienced than I thought a kid died on the table and I was just in shock. And he looks to me, he says, Stan, some wounds are fatal. You know, I just couldn’t believe it, because who dies on my table? Nobody, I save everybody wrong. You can’t save everybody. And that that was a humongous shock to my system. You know, as new in medicine as I was, I couldn’t believe it. I’d never lost anybody on the table before that one guy and lost numbers since then after that, but I was just in shock.
(CAROL): [00:08:19] How about Christmas Eve? The casualties from a friendly fire. 15 of them.
(STANLEY): [00:08:25] We lost every one of our liver fractures. Seven. We couldn’t save them. We were never able to save any of those kids, and we tried everything we knew. 100 unit of blood transfusions, different positions, hours and hours of surgery. We couldn’t it was so upsetting, I mean, we all just I died with every one of those kids.
(CAROL): [00:08:59] Mostly, it started out being good friends and really talking a lot and everything. And one of my corpmen, I just looked at me one night and said LT Connlley he really loves you. And I went, No, he doesn’t. We’re just good friends. And then, but you don’t know when you come back to the real world because you’re everybody’s you’re isolated. And so you have no idea if it’s going to work out. You know, when you come back and I think that’s the biggest surprise for me is that, you know, it worked out back here also. We still don’t talk about it very much. You know, we’ve lived through it.
(HOST): [00:09:39] Stanley and Carol Rosenberg. A lot of Vietnam love stories involve nurses, which is no surprise since the vast majority of American women serving there were in that profession, sometimes love bloomed in the mud of Southeast Asia. Other times it blossomed here at home and was transplanted there. If you’d like to hear a story about a doctor and a nurse who were married here and deployed together to Vietnam. Head over to witnesstowar.org and search for Pete and Susan Tancredi. That’s T-A-N-C-R-E-D-I. Their story is amazing, as are all of the stories at Witness to War. In fact, all of the stories in this episode came from our friends over there. You’ll find thousands of first person combat stories on their website from World War II all the way up to Afghanistan. Check them out at WitnesstoWar.org. Jim Bullington had always wanted to join the military, but a teenage bout with polio took that option off the table. Instead, as a way of seeing the world and seeking adventure and serving his country, Jim joined the Foreign Service in 1962 after working at the State Department in Washington, D.C., for a few years. Jim received his first overseas assignment. He was going to Vietnam. It was July 1965, and the U.S. was just starting to deploy combat forces at large scale. Jim arrived at the consulate in Hue where a young South Vietnamese woman, Twee Kong, was working as a translator.
(JIM): [00:11:15] We knew each other from the time I arrived in Hue, it was decided to relocate the consulate in Da Nang. It was the I Corps headquarters and that was a better place to have the consulate. It was a much more important city by that time than Hue. It was a time when you could see the impact of the political instability on the South Vietnamese government’s ability to prosecute the war. And things were clearly going downhill during that that period and continued to up until the Tet Offensive in 68. But after the the consulate was burned down, both Twee Kong and I were transferred to the embassy in Saigon. My job in Saigon was as staff aide to Henry Cabot Lodge, the ambassador. And Twee Kong was working with the
(TWEE KONG): [00:12:16] Economic section
(JIM): [00:12:17] economic section of the embassy. Twee Kong and I had been courting since I got away actually off and on. I went home after the end of my second tour with Lodge in 67.
(TWEE KONG): [00:12:32] He was mad at me at that time. I’m being very shy, came from a very close knit family. And one night he took me to dinner. And it came home, opened the door for me to get out, said, Can I give you a goodnight kiss? And I was so scared and I ran around the car, refused, refused him. He was so mad. And then went home without calling to say goodbye or anything.
(JIM): [00:13:18] But I only stayed home for like four or five weeks and I was back, yeah, I wanted to get back to Vietnam, and so I had enough contacts because of my job with Lodge. That I knew who to call and was able to arrange to go right back to Vietnam for a third tour. By that time, she was back in Da Nang, and so I wanted to go back to I Corps. And there was no job opening in either Hue or Da Nang, but they needed someone in Quang Tri, the northernmost province. And of course, the headquarters for I Corps was in Da Nang, where the consulate was, and my boss was was there. And so that was the first place I stopped on the way to Quang Tri. (Mm hmm.)
(TWEE KONG): [00:14:12] Then one day he showed up asking me to go out to lunch with him. And we did. Yeah.
(JIM): [00:14:22] By late fall of 67, we were engaged and we had set the wedding date for March of 68 when my tour was to end and we would get married and go back to the states. So Tet coming up was to be her last Tet before getting married and going off to this foreign country. And she it’s a big, big deal in Vietnam, Tet. It’s it’s really the the one major national holiday and everyone focuses on it. So she was going home to Hue for Tet of 1968, and I came down from Quang Tri to meet her there and join her and her family for the Tet celebration. This was a bad time to visit Hue on January 30th, 1968, because along with me that night there came three regiments of the North Vietnamese Army and major major attack.
(TWEE KONG): [00:15:33] I took one week to come home to help prepare for the holidays. And the whole family was there, my grandmother, everyone was in the compound there, three houses in the compound. And we celebrated that right after Jim went home. We went to bed around 12:00 at night and slept. Until we heard the wailing of a woman. And we heard footsteps running very, very fast outside, and soon enough there was bang bang on the door. They used the rifle butt to to to get the door open. So we opened the door. I said, Everybody’s out. Go out. No, no hiding. Anybody want anybody else hiding, please come out. So we all went now, and there was a group of about 12 of them, 12 North Vietnamese soldiers. And they use a rifle butt to push us. Then we were gathering at a place not far from home about, a hundred yards or something. There we met a lot of people in the village, in the in the area, all my neighbors and they perform propaganda and they said, Uncle Ho’s heart is bleeding for you. That’s why we’re here running from the mountains all the way here by foot. And in order to liberate you and then is there anybody who volunteer to tell us where the U.S. Lackeys are? Where the government puppets are and nobody said anything.
(JIM): [00:17:35] It’s important to point out that during this time when they were occupying Hue, this was a little known, but the greatest atrocity of the war was going on. They were going around and rounding up everyone they could find who worked for the government, who worked for the Americans, heads of political parties, religious figures, just about anybody that was not on their side and shooting them. Nearly 3000 South Vietnamese were murdered, including some of her close relatives. So she was in direct danger. That night, back at their house, they had to leave again and went to a refugee camp, which had been established near MACV at Hue University. She came to MACV looking for news about me, found out that I had gone to Da Nang. And so she came to the helicopter pad to try to get a ride back to Da Nang, where of course she worked and where she thought I was. Well, while she was waiting there, a helicopter landed and I got off of it. And of course, we were reunited there at the helicopter pad neither to that time, knowing for sure that the the other was alive. But it was a February 14 Valentine’s Day, and so it was a good time to be reunited, and instead of the big traditional Vietnamese wedding we had planned in way, we were married in Da Nang at the U.S. Consulate General. This was March 16. We were married and spent a couple of weeks in Saigon, getting paperwork done to get her out and left for the United States and back home.
(HOST): [00:19:41] Jim and Twee Kong Burlington, after a short break, you’ll hear what may be the most inspiring love story I’ve ever heard about a marine who came home in pieces from Hill 163 and the wife whose love literally kept him alive. Stick around. The 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is on March 26th of this year to commemorate this milestone. Every day at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, we read the names of all the wall honorees who died on that date in alphabetical order. This is in addition to the live in person reading of the names that will be held in Washington, D.C., beginning on November 7th. You can visit vvmf.org/ROTN, that stands for Reading of the Names. For more information about the daily virtual reading of the names and about the in-person event. We know it isn’t easy for everybody to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. So VMV created the wall that heals an exact replica of the wall at three quarter scale that travels to communities all across America. The wall that heals and the mobile education center that travels with it will be in 29 cities this year to see the tour schedule and to learn how you can bring the wall that heals to your town. Visit VVMF.org. Do you have loved ones who served in Vietnam and later died as a result? Would you like to honor them at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial? We’re still accepting applications for the 2022 In Memory honor roll through March 29th.
(HOST): [00:21:41] We also have an In Memory Facebook group with more than 14000 members, so be sure to join that if you want to feel part of a community of people who’ve experienced a loss similar to yours. You’ll find the In Memory honor roll application and a link to the Facebook group by going to VVMF.org and clicking on In Memory. And finally, if you’d like to be a part of VVMF’s enduring legacy, consider making a gift to our new legacy endowment unless we act now. The service and sacrifice of Vietnam veterans may be forgotten when their generation is gone for 40 years. Vmv has led the way to help heal our nation. Remember those who gave all and honor, all who served? The legacy endowment will ensure that we can continue honoring Vietnam veterans for the next 40 years and beyond. We’re launching the Legacy Endowment with a $500000 matching gift campaign. The legacy challenge each new outright gift or gift established through a will will be matched up to 50 percent with a maximum of $50000 matched per gift. All qualifying gifts established or newly identified before November 12th of this year are eligible for the match. Learn more at VVMF.org/Legacy. Before we get to the next story, I wanted to share this little anecdote, I just got a kick out of it. It’s from Steve Long, a marine avionics technician who was serving in Vietnam when a new guy showed up.
(STEVE): [00:23:13] He was a young man. They grew up here in the south, gone to college, had a sweetheart. I don’t think he got drafted, but he enlisted and he he showed up and was assigned to our hooch. And he was telling us that he was in love. That when he stopped in Okinawa to get his stuff he had met a bar girl. Well, we heard that story and we said. Bar girl, she’s in love with somebody else right now, but he was just totally enamored with her, just oh over the top. And. We harassed him unmercifully because he was sending money to her and that kind of stuff. Jump forward, we’re back in New River. We run into him. He’s stationed there and he said, I’d like you to come out. To my I got a place on base housing. Why don’t you come over for dinner? We knock on the door. He married the bar girl, talk about two guys that were speechless. She’s a really great lady. They’re married today. You know, and we’ve we’ve gotten together with our wives. He and his wife. But boy, we rode him hard.
(HOST): [00:24:54] Our last story today features Clebe and Deanna McClary. This one, too, contains vivid descriptions of injury and death. It also contains incredible examples of devotion and perseverance. You’ll need a hanky for this one.
(CLEBE): [00:25:15] Well, met my wife, she was a cheerleader. I 26 year old coach and the 18 year old cheerleader. You do that today, you go straight to jail. We threw the ring back and forth a few times, but I knew I loved Deanna and I didn’t know what I wanted. Didn’t want to marry a young girl and go off to service. I didn’t plan on, getting wounded or maybe killed. I didn’t think of that.
(DEANNE): [00:25:35] I guess I was cheering for the high school football team when he went to the college game and saw somebody burn the flag, and man did that turn his life upside down. And when he saw that flag burned, he he literally made a commitment. Then he was joined in the military. When Clebe joined the Marine Corps, I was not patriotic. I thought he had lost his bloomin mind because he was at University of South Carolina had literally possibly a lucrative even if he had gone on. He was going to be an assistant coach under Paul Dietzel. And I mean, he could have moved on into the football arena, perhaps even been a professional football coach. And I was a cheerleader and our little world was, you know, kind of going the right way. I was begging him not to do that. I wanted my little world, my life normal, you know, and my daddy had been a marine, so I thought, Oh, good grief, you know? But you know, he joined the Marine Corps. Long story short, after he got his bars put on, I didn’t even get the pin the bars on because I was at home getting ready the next day or two to get married to this guy, who is now a Marine, had gone through Officer’s candidate school.
(DEANNE): [00:26:50] And so, I mean, it was just upside down. We said, I do. I got in that car. We had a few days honeymoon and drove to Quantico, Virginia. And that was my life, starting as a Marine Corps wife. We had a short lived marriage at Quantico. And next thing I know. And he didn’t have to go to Vietnam. He had had a heat stroke at the PRT, had gone to the intensive care unit and he had a medical out. He did not have to even go to Vietnam. He wanted to go to Vietnam. He wanted to serve his country. That is the way Clebe McClary is. It’s take the hill. So here’s a man that’s ready to go to Vietnam to take the hill with a very reluctant wife who wanted a marriage, who wanted a home, who wanted a family, and I was not so pro service at that point. I was glad that I was married to this handsome Marine but not headed for combat.
(CLEBE): [00:28:08] That was out there, more of a forward observer and not really reconning, and we were supposed to stay there and control Operation Rock at that time, I think it was the biggest operation in Vietnam. And it got cancelled and left us out there. But with everything getting blown up and weather raining and bad, they couldn’t get to us. And they wanted to, I think, but we just got left out there. You got to realize I had a lot of brand new men. I had eight out of 13. The devil been in a fight. Nobody jungled before. So it was their first time they did a great job to keep fighting like they did. I hollered and yell and crawl from position to position, and maybe one reason I got hit as much as I did, but they fought. They really did. All night, we sat him on it like, say, on a small tea plantation in the middle of Da Nang and I cleared a pugie pit, got a bottle of that. I my radio man, my corpman dig a foxhole to my left. Three in a foxhole to my right, but 50 yards behind me a bomb had exploded earlier and left a big crater. 2000 pound crater there and I put eight men round edges of that. They could have a good bit protection. Then I had Machine Gun back on that side because I thought that might be where they came from. But 12 at night, I thought I heard some enemy movement at the bottom of the hill and grab my shotgun, a Winchester 12 pump, and strarted crawling into the right to see if these men had heard anything.
(CLEBE): [00:29:39] And before I got two of them, a grenade came in and exploded, hit me in the neck, in the shoulder, and like hill, it bravely turned into a back into a pudgy pit. I cleared. It was about six feet tall and I couldn’t see out. I cleared a little place I put a cheek in, I could, but halfway up could shoot out to the top of it, you could see. And that probably would save my life because when the enemy had grenades tied around his waist and his NVA and grenades each had a pins pull and I guess later said, You and you go die for Ho Chi Minh tonight and they coming up, exploding and killing themselves, trying to kill us. And I shot one right in front of me fell in the hole with me and went to the bottom exploded. I was about halfway up there that blew me all the rest of the way out, and I reached back for the shotgun. Arm had been taken off and shotgun blown up and everything. I tried to get back where I had eight men behind me, and before I got there, another grenade came in and Ralph Johnson from Charleston, only (unknown) that I had he jumped on it and covered it with his stomach and blew himself in half to save my life.
(CLEBE): [00:30:48] Got out of it and tried to get where I had eight men falling back behind me before I got to another grenade. It came and took my legs out from under me, and I don’t know. It seemed like I was I don’t know how long it passed, but believe me, I never wanted to live so bad all my life. If I could just see my men get off that hill and if I could see my bride one more time. I thought I ought to go to sleep. I think I have died right there and I just really wanted, really wanted to live. Three a.m., the first bird landed, but with two dead, five wounded in that chopper as it lifted, the next one landed. The rest of my men grabbed hold that bird lifted. But one hundred and fifty enemy just covered the hill. Five more minutes. Probably nobody got out of there alive. Pain is hard to describe. You know, you can’t help it so much, you know? And I didn’t know my arm was off for a while. And then a grenade came in and blew his hand up and blew this out of my face off, my eye out and teeth out and everything. And both eardrums were blown out. This hand was all messed up, but a lot of things were hurting. But you just wanted to stay alive, and doctors did a tremendous job back in base. I know I was laying on a stretcher and they cut all my clothes off, my boots off and everything and started working on me.
(CLEBE): [00:32:19] And I remember the doctor would not only cut my boots off my clothes off and on. He slapped me, hit me and cussed me. And I think I thought I could have died better than this out in the jungle. But all my arms and all the blown up my legs, you could see the for the hip to my feet, it looked like hamburger meat and you could see the bone all the way and they couldn’t find a place to get a transfusion, they took a small needle like give a baby a transfusion. They put it in my temple and they say they kept my brain alive. My wife questioned that pretty often, but that’s the only thing that kept me going and got blood to my brain, I guess. I cared men out there and I wanted to see them get home to their moms and dads and their girlfriend or wife, and it was my responsibility, you know, to lose two, that hurt. And both of them, what one is gave his life saving my life jumping on the grenade. And, you know, you grow up on a plantation in the south and the black kid from Charleston jumps on a grenade blows himself in half and to save your life, you know your blood red uniforms green. It didn’t matter. You know, we loved each other and cared about each other and trying to get everybody off that hill was all we were trying to do.
(DEANNE): [00:33:55] So I was living at home, I was working in a dress shop, store saving money so I could meet my husband in Hawaii for R&R. I was in nursing now, had changed from psychology major to nursing. God was preparing me for what was ahead because I was studying prosthetics and amputees like the week before I got the telegram. So I packed up, got my suitcases ready to meet Clebe in Hawaii and I’d gone in to get my hair done. And the day before I was to leave to meet him a major Burleson, I came to our house and my aunt delivered the message, said Deanne, you need to come home. I said, Aunt Estelle, I’m getting my hair fix. She said, You need to come home. There are some men here that need to talk to you. Well, I’d always been told if the men are there from the military to talk to you, your husband is dead. He’s been killed in action. So I jumped in my little Opel cadet and I just drove home, crying the whole way and just bawling my eyes out because I knew Clebe was dead. And I remember driving in the backyard, stopped my car got out and the man, Major Burleson, was standing there and a corpsman. I guess I don’t even. And they tried to stop me, and I just pushed by them. I just very abruptly. I didn’t look at them. I walked by and I went back to my bedroom and I started crying and my mom came back and she said, Oh honey, you need to come out here. These men, they need to talk to you. And Clebe’s alive.
(DEANNE): [00:35:33] I went, Why? He’s alive? So I went back out there and I stood there and I said, he’s alive. And they said, Miss McClary, we have to read you the initial telegram. We have to tell you what your husband looks like before you ever see him, but he is alive. Just hold on to the fact that he’s alive. Your husband, Lieutenant Clebe McClary, has suffered a traumatic amputation of the left arm, shrapnel wounds to all extremities. Prognosis very poor, outlook dim. But he’s alive. All I really heard was he’s alive. Then I had to wait and wait and wait. And every day the telegram, I got another Telegram saying they were going to amputate his left leg because he got severe infection. That’s when his fever’s fighting and they weren’t sure, and they couldn’t fly him home with a high fever. It was just awful, and I literally dreaded it. Even get another telegram. And then, however, long past I was going to his mom and dad’s house trying to help them and and we got the telegram saying that they’re flying him from Japan to Bethesda Naval Hospital and Clebe’s mom and dad made flight arrangements for us. Exactly three seats on that plane, you talk about providential planning. We got on that plane, flew there to Bethesda that night. They wouldn’t let us see Clebe that night because he was too weak. The next morning, we they were giving us exact time to be there. We rode up that elevator to the 14th floor Bethesda Naval Hospital. The elevator doors open and whammo man, I was just shot in the face with antiseptic smell of the hospital and the reality of what I was getting ready to face.
(DEANNE): [00:37:31] But then I heard Clebe and anybody who’s heard him. Very distinctive accent. Very distinctive voice. And I heard him. I mean, I heard him his voice down the hall. I knew it sounded muffled and different, but it was Clebe. I said, That’s my husband, and I said, Please, I’m in nursing. I’m ready to see my husband and I really felt like I was prepared. I’ve been studying all this prosthetics, amputees, and I would just want to be the first one in this room, quite frankly. And I remember they told me the last room end of the hall and I walked to the last room at the end of the hall. But there were rooms on both sides and I thought I’ll listen. I thought I heard Clebe’s voice echoing from the left. So I walked to the door of that room very quietly, I didn’t say a word. And I looked in guy on the left, had two arms that wasn’t Clebe the guy in front of me right on the bed in front of me, I glanced at him. But he was so disfigured and so bandaged up and I thought, Whoa, I’m in the wrong room. And I turned very quietly to get out of the room as I turned to leave. That’s when Clebe said, D Honey, it’s me. I know I’m not pretty to look at, but I thank God that I’m alive to be with you right now. And when I heard his voice and when I heard him say that I went over, I said, You’re beautiful to me and whatever it takes, we are in this together.
(CLEBE): [00:39:11] It was a lot of surgery, a lot of operations just to put your hand back, they took the tendon out of my foot, put in my fingers, only fear was getting athlete’s foot at the hand, but anyway. But I’ll play golf. I still shoot. I’ve been blessed. I get so much to be thankful for. I know this has got grenade pieces in it, but I still see out of it. This one’s gone. But you glance at what you got left and some people didn’t live through it. You know, you got to have what to hang in there because I mean, if I had to quit, if I go to sleep, we’re just giving up. I would have died right there. So she she brought me through it and then gollie. You can’t use your hands for two years and can’t walk and your wife does everything. And she still does a lot for me, and she ties my ties and buttons my buttons and dresses me and does everything. And it’s just so I wouldn’t know how to do it without her.
(DEANNE): [00:40:04] You can’t give up and win. You’ll never win giving up. And that’s how I feel about our marriage. I feel that’s how I felt in that hospital that day. I could not let him give up because I was willing to do whatever it was going to take to get him well again. And I will have to say the sight of that for me to even be able to handle that was unbelievable. But when you’ve got love in your heart and you love somebody so much, you just it doesn’t matter what they look like that moment and look at him today had I not been willing to invest and walk away? Look what I would have missed. We have learned to laugh at things, and that is very important. They call me sunshine. Now why do you think they call me sunshine? I mean, I always tell people this if I’m introducing Clebe, I said, there are days when we walk down the beach and the string bikini are getting so tiny that I move Clebe’s patch over his good eye so he won’t be tempted. I said so we have learned to laugh at difficult situations, and it’s not always easy. Life’s not easy. It’s not easy for any of us in this day and age. For all the wives out there, I think this poem says a lot for those who have been willing to go the second mile with their husbands. It’s called Woman The Compléter by Pam Minton. I once met a soldier, a hero of war one arm and eye were missing, but still a smile he wore. He told me how his tragedy had come about, and then he told me of his teenage wife, who taught him how to win.
(DEANNE): [00:41:57] Now, I can’t do it.
(DEANNE): [00:41:59] She taught him how to overcome tragedies in life. She walked with him through every trial. His gentle, loving wife, I wasn’t always so gentle. She helped her make her hero into who he is today. She gave him back his will to live, to smile day after day. Now, I might not meet her while living in this life because I’ve seen this solider. I’ve also seen his wife.
(HOST): [00:42:41] Deanna McClary went on to build a career helping military wives and their husbands keep it together in the face of chaos. And she’s the author of Commitment to Love. Clebe is a professional speaker and he’s still handsome as all get out. We’ll put a link to their website, ClebeMcClary.com In the episode notes on our web page, VVMF.org/echoes. Our thanks again to our friends over a WitnesstoWar.org for providing these stories, which we edited to fit this format. And thank you for checking out the official podcast from the founders of The Wall if you like it. Tell a friend or two. Or better yet, leave us a rating or a review wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll really appreciate it. We’ll be back in two weeks. We’ll see you then.
No video interviews are available for this episode.
- Witness to War – witnesstowar.org
- Witness to War – Tancredi story – https://www.witnesstowar.org/search_result?share=5e445fbdfd
- VVMF Reading of the Names – vvmf.org/ROTN
- VVMF The Wall That Heals – vvmf.org/the-wall-that-heals
- VVMF In Memory – vvmf.org/inmemory
- VVMF Legacy Challenge – vvmf.org/legacy
- Clebe and Deanna website – https://www.clebemcclary.com/
- Deanna’s book Commitment to Love – https://www.amazon.com/Commitment-Jerry-Jenkins-Deanna-McClary/dp/0964066602
- YouTube Echoes of the Vietnam War Interview playlist – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLK63b6Cn53unMMj-yZYEch0RuYy1YN1zl