March 10 2010

Lexington Herald article
December 19, 1992

Vietnam-Era Officer Found God after Losing Legs During War

by Carey Kinsolving

The dramatic comeback resulting in Army’s 25-24 victory over Navy is not the only miracle cadets and midshipmen witnessed recently.

Another occurred after the game at a banquet at which a former cadet of the Vietnam era told about his comeback from below-the-knee amputations of his legs.

Allen Clark, a Bush appointee who directs the National Cemetery System for the Veterans Administration, recounted his miraculous recovery from a mortar shell that landed between his legs and left 25 pieces of shrapnel in them.

Speaking at the dinner of the Officers’ Christian Fellowship at the Chambers-Wylie Presbyterian church, Clark recalled the words he screamed as he absorbed the mortar hit during the 1967 Vietnamese attack on the American camp at Dak To: “Oh my God, my legs, my legs, help me. Oh, my God, I’m dead!”

During the next 15 months, Clark had 12 operations. Even Demoral shots every three hours failed to stop the pain.

After being discharged from the Army and fitted with artificial legs, Clark moved to Dallas, where he landed a job as Ross Perot’s personal financial assistant.

With the birth of his first daughter in 1971, Clark recalled that he sensed a need to attend church. However, his work left little time.

But things began to change when he read in a West Point alumni magazine that a former classmate, Andrew Seidel, had moved to Dallas. Seidel, Clark said, had been an exceptional officer but resigned from the military to prepare for the ministry by enrolling at Dallas Theological Seminary. Soon, Clark and his wife, Jackie, began to attend Fellowship Bible Church with the Seidels.

In his autobiography, Oh, God I’m Dead, Clark, 50, credits pastor Gene Getz for a message that opened his eyes. “The real war in the world is the war between good and evil, the devil versus the Lord, and they are fighting for the hearts and souls of people,” Getz said.

The sermon put things in perspective for Clark. All his life, he had been a sincere patriot and nearly died fighting communism, which he considered evil. But he had not trusted in “the ultimate provider – God and his son, Jesus Christ.”

In the church service, Clark said, he became “born again” because he accepted John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that all who believe in Him, should not perish, but have life everlasting.”

Clark, a 1963 West Point graduate, said the military represents that last bastion of an idealistic life. Secular society and political life are full of “lying, cheating and stealing,” he said.

Clark noted that the West Point code of “duty, honor, country” is compatible with the life of integrity that Christians are called to live. Clark told the young soldiers that true battles are fought on a deep spiritual level.

The candor and genuineness with which Clark addressed the cadets and midshipmen impressed Dick Wilson, who has known Clark since they were plebes at the academy in 1959. Clark’s statement about not being able to pray away the bad memories of combat rang true with Wilson, who also served in Vietnam.

“I have to deal with those memories every day,” Clark said.

Although the West Point class of 1963 gets together every year for a reunion, Clark’s Philadelphia speech marked the first time Wilson has heard how Clark volunteered for his Vietnam tour. Clark said he could have gone to Korea as a general’s aide, but he felt an obligation to serve in Vietnam.

Wilson expressed amazement at Clark’s ability to put people at ease about his disability. At one of their reunions, Clark tried to play golf with his former classmates. He took a swing at the golf ball and fell down, Wilson said.

George Skypeck, combat artist and poet, has been so impressed with Clark’s work at the Veterans Administration that he is leading a lobbying effort to persuade President-elect Clinton to keep Clark at his VA post. So far, Skypeck has collected 25 letters praising Clark for his performance at the VA.

Rose Thorogood has worked with Clark for four years as his secretary at the VA. On Tuesday, she heard her boss speak at a luncheon sponsored by the Public Service Fellowship in Washington.

“He leads by example,” Thorogood said. “He just demonstrates the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but after working with him, it sort of challenged me to get more committed to the Lord.”

Thorogood has been impressed with how Clark has handled situations where people have caused him pain. “He would always say, ‘I have the Lord and the means to overcome this,’” Thorogood said. “’I’m not going to let this get me down. It’s going to make me a more mature Christian.’”