Originally created 02/16/02

Ex-Marine embodies the spirit of a nation



Deanna McClary ties her former Marine husband's shoes, buttons his shirts and shaves him.

She calls herself his "left-hand lady" since he survived a Viet Cong assault in 1968. Clebe McClary, who grew up near Florence, S.C., is missing all but two fingers on his right hand. He lost his left arm and left eye when enemy troops overran his patrol one spring night near An Hoa, southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam.

Thirty-four major surgeries and hours upon hours of therapy later, he left the hospital. During the 30 months of recovery, he regained the use of his legs, mangled like hamburger in the assault.

Mr. McClary, the author of a book titled Living Proof and the subject of a documentary, Portrait of an American Hero, will speak on God and country at America, Rekindle the Spirit, a rally at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel and Convention Center, 2 10th St.

The rally has taken shape in the months since Sept. 11. The idea for it surfaced among members at In Focus Church in Evans but picked up sponsors quicker than Tiger Woods.

Augusta-area churches and Christian organizations from several denominations, Christian media, individuals and corporations have given their support.

The United States "has been very divided for the last 30 years, racially, politically and every other way, and that is not what we were intended to be," said Mary Bannigan of Augusta, an organizer.

The Pilgrim fathers brought their families to this country for religious freedom, she said. "The first thing they did was to covenant to love. They were smart enough to know that when you love, freedom follows."

She and other organizers collected stories about contemporary Augustans, who, acting in the tradition of religious freedom, stood for their beliefs at the risk of their jobs or reputations. Their names and stories were published in a booklet, which will be distributed at the rally.

Brent Garrard, music minister at In Focus, will lead a time of worship with sacred and patriotic music. Composer Connie Ryals and her sister, Sonya Bailey, both from the Augusta area, will also sing Ms. Ryals' composition, America, Rekindle the Spirit.

The McClarys were married only a few months before her husband enlisted. She knew when he left for Vietnam as a second lieutenant that he would love his men and they would love him, she said.

When the patrol was overrun, he was still trying to lead. "When (the medic) got to Clebe, he was still shouting orders," said Mrs. McClary, who told the story of his recovery from her perspective in her book, Commitment to Love.

"Her book is better than mine," said Mr. McClary.

Admission to the rally is free, but a love offering will be taken.

For more information, call (803) 642-7106 or visit www.motivationsceu.com/america.html.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.