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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center

 

Heroes Among Us: Clebe McClary

Vietnam War symposium panelists Clebe McClary, Jackie Hall, W. Frank Walker, and Alex Colvin pose on the symposium stage.

Vietnam War Veterans 1st Lt. Clebe McClary, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.) stands alongside fellow panelists Maj. Jackie Hall, U.S. Air Force (ret.), 1st Lt. Frank Walker, U.S. Army (ret.), and Lance Cpl. Alex Colvin, U.S. Marine Corps, on the symposium stage of the USS Yorktown’s Smokey Stover Theater.

By Lanelle W. Strawder, MA, Public Affairs Specialist
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Last Thursday evening, Veterans, community leaders and citizens from across the state gathered aboard the USS Yorktown in the Smokey Stover Theater to listen as a very special group of South Carolinians shared stories of service and sacrifice during the war that forever changed America. Together with Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, ABC News 4 and iHeart Media, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center presented a Vietnam War symposium entitled, “Heroes Among Us: The Ongoing 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.”

Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. (ret.) James Livingston was honored, and panelists included helicopter pilot 1st Lt. Frank Walker, U.S. Army (ret.) and flight nurse Maj. Jackie Hall, U.S. Air Force (ret.).

The night was especially impactful for two of the panelists—U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Clebe McClary (ret.) and Lance Cpl. Alex Colvin. The two both served as members of a 15-man reconnaissance patrol in the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division in Vietnam.

On March 5, 1968, McClary was leading the patrol when they arrived on Hill 146 in the Quan Duc Valley. Before long, the patrol came under heavy enemy fire. When a hand grenade landed in the three-man fighting hole occupied by Pfc. Ralph H. Johnson and two fellow Marines, Johnson sacrificed his own life by using his body to absorb the blast.

Until Thursday, McClary and Colvin had not set eyes on each other since that fateful day more than 48 years ago. Since that day, the men have watched as their friend and comrade has been honored for his heroic act. Johnson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. And the VA medical center in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, also bears his name. More recently, the U.S. Navy christened the nation's 64th destroyer ship, DDG 114, as the USS Ralph Johnson.

McClary remembers his time in Vietnam and Johnson's ultimate sacrifice in this video posted by ABC News 4.

The FULL one-hour broadcast of the symposium is available here.

Alex Colvin and Clebe McClary pose for a picture.

Colvin and McClary smile as they reunite for the first time in more than 48 years.

(Read Colvin’s memories of the time he spent with his friend Pfc. Ralph H. Johnson on our website.)

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