By Sabrina Bates
While military service “isn’t for everyone,” the family of Larry Clark of Martin has a long history of service to this country.
Clark began his service in the United States Air Force Oct. 24, 1967. For Clark, he found service in the Air Force to be a way of life and spent 20 years enlisted before retiring from military service. Enlisting at a time when the nation was at war in Vietnam, Clark said he wanted to choose his branch of service as being deployed to the Orient was going to be eventual for him.
At several stages of his time in Vietnam, Clark served double duty.
“Like everyone else there, at several points, I served double duty and had more than one job,” Clark recalled. He spent time in aircraft maintenance and served as an engine mechanic while stationed overseas.
“While in the service, I got to travel a lot and saw some historical places all over the world. If it hadn’t been for the war, Vietnam was a beautiful place,” Clark shared.
Clark followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps — both served in the military during wartimes.
“My dad didn’t want me to join, but I had the chance to sign up for the branch I wanted before I was drafted and I chose the Air Force,” Clark said. His elders had served in the United States Army.
His grandfather, Jess Pate, served in World War I in an artillery unit. Clark said stories about Pate’s unit being gassed by the Germans during the war have been passed along throughout the years. His grandfather survived World War I.
Clark’s dad, Bernard, was a platoon scout during World War II. Clark recalled his dad and others in the unit had the responsibility of building railroads during the war. His dad was captured, wounded and spent nearly a year as a POW during World War II.
“He wouldn’t talk about it much. It was toward the end of his life that he would talk about his time there. But we couldn’t say anything bad about Gen. Patton. It was Gen. Patton’s tank brigade that came in and liberated the (POW) camp and freed our POWs,” Clark shared.
While several of the male family members have served during major battles, including the Battle of the Bulge, throughout the 20th Century, Clark said they were very fortunate to have all returned from the wars.
Two of Clark’s uncles — James T. Pate and Jessie Pate — served in the United States Army during the Korean War. James Clark joined his brother Bernard in the United States Army serving in World War II.
“It had been talked about that (uncle) James trained as a sniper and was Gen. Eisenhower’s driver for a short time,” Clark said.
Clark’s brother, Phillip, voluntarily enlisted in the National Guard, serving from 1976-1978.
Near the culmination of the Vietnam War, Clark met and married Janice Parks, someone who shared a family tradition of military service.
Her uncle, Herman Parks, served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. He became a Tech Sergeant before ending his service in 1972. Another uncle, James Castleman served in the Korean War with the United States Army.
Clark said his wife had more uncles and a brother who enlisted in the service.
The couple’s son Jonathan spent a lot of time with his grandfather as a child. Clark said that may have some additional influence on Jonathan’s decision to enlist in the United States Army. His time shared with his grandfather inspired Jonathan to write a paper about his “hero” upon graduation.
He served for eight years before a medical discharge in 2017. Jonathan was deployed to Afghanistan. He trained as a tanker and spent about a year with a special cavalry unit that was responsible for building its own base in the Middle East. He is now residing in Ft. Riley, Kansas. According to his dad, the level of VA care is adequate in that part of the nation and meets Jonathan’s needs.
Such is the case for one of Janice’s nephews, Shane Parks, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Parks was deployed to Iraq as well as Afghanistan before his medical discharge. He now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.
These two families represent hometowns of Gleason, Sharon and Martin. The four generations have been a part of each war during the 20th Century and represent three branches of service.