This week’s guest has to be one of my most enjoyable. “I was very hesitant about doing this,” he told me. “But Donny said all the things you do for the veterans and I really enjoy your column.”
Donny is his good friend, Brigadier General Don Quennville, and the reason I was granted the opportunity to interview George MacClary. It was General Quennville (a future Veterans Spotlight feature subject) who suggested we get together. And boy, am I ever so grateful.
Lance Corporal George MacClary served his country with distinction and bravery (he was awarded the Purple Heart) in the US Marine Corps in Vietnam in 1968 1969. His humility of service and pride in being a Marine are exemplary. He volunteered right out of high school and was sent to basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina. “It was a very quick boot camp. as they needed grunts to fight. We were sent right to Vietnam. I felt that duty called. I had strong feelings and wanted to do my part,” he remembered.
Lance Cpl. MacClary served in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which saw a tremendous amount of fighting. I asked him his feeling on being awarded the Purple Heart and he offered this: “We were in a firefight...fairly close combat. I took a shrapnel wound. It took a while to get [air transported to a hospital]. I ended up at the Chelsea Naval Hospital. You feel fortunate to just be alive. Some of your buddies that received the same award, weren’t there to get it in person.”
I asked Mr. MacClary about a mentor he might have had during his military service, and he did not hesitate: “Lieutenant Colonel Atkinson. He was an enlisted man…World War II vet. Went onto VMI (Virginia Military Institute) after the war. He really treated us with respect.”
I asked him about being in Vietnam during the holidays and he shared this incredibly powerful story: “We received notice that Admiral John McCain was going to visit us right before Christmas. (Admiral John Sidney McCain Jr. was the Commander in Chief, Pacific Command, commander of all US forces in the Vietnam theater from 1968 to 1972). There were lots of gunships and security was high for protection as we were in a very ‘hot’ place. The admiral’s son (John McCain III) was in a Viet Cong prison camp. The admiral came to be with the troops.
“He spent about 20 minutes with us. We later found out that each Christmas while his son was in that prison camp, he came to get as close to him as he possibly could as a tribute to his son. Any further and he would have been in enemy territory. I met Admiral McCain and even have a picture with him.”
I asked Lance Cpl. MacClary his feeling on coming home from Vietnam. “When we came back, the guys I knew, we stuck pretty much to ourselves. I went into the fire department in Waltham (he finished his career as a captain). I always felt good about my duty and Marine Corps service. I was a traditional, average Marine. Did what they told me to do,” he said. “I really felt that I needed to continue my service by helping our veterans…helping our new veterans.”
Lance Cpl. MacClary applies his tremendous passion as a volunteer to the Hope For Warriors organization, an affiliation that has lasted 10-plus years. “Hope For Warriors is a four star-rated charity,” he said. “They donate to all branches of the service for veterans. It’s a very well-respected organization with 85 to 90 percent of monies raised going directly to veterans. That’s what I’m really proud of.”
Lance Cpl. MacClary is excited about the Hope For Warriors Charity Golf Tournament on October 7 at The Brookside Country Club in Bourne. “I encourage people to look up Hope For Warriors and see the wonderful things they do for our veterans. We have a great course and a great cause. It’s just a really beautiful day,” he said. If you would like to make a donation or play in the tourney, or get information, email email@example.com.
Lance Corporal George MacClary, thank you for your service to our great country and for your continued service in making veterans’ lives a little better.
Contact Wayne Soares at firstname.lastname@example.org