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Thread: Family mourns Marine
07-27-04, 02:46 PM #1
Family mourns Marine
Family mourns Marine
Leesburg man killed in Iraq just shy of his 30th birthday
By JOHN HUETTER
Daily Commercial Staff Writer
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael J. Clark’s two wishes in life were to make master gunnery sergeant and “always be there for his family,” according to his brother. He will never achieve these goals.
The Leesburg man was killed in Iraq on Tuesday — just five days before his 30th birthday — according to Clark’s brother, Robert Clark, and a press release from the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton. The Camp Pendleton release attributes the death to “enemy action.”
“We haven’t got the whole story,” Robert Clark, 25, said Thursday. According to him, Sgt. Clark and his men came across a suspicious vehicle. As team leader and an explosive ordinance disposal specialist, Sgt. Clark approached it, only to have the vehicle detonate.
Regina Clark of Pascagoula, Miss., who is no relation to Sgt. Clark, said her Marine son — coincidentally, also named Michael Clark — was in Sgt. Clark’s company and told her, “I lost a friend of mine yesterday.”
“It bothered him, you know,” she said. “They worked out in the gym together.”
Robert Clark said his brother left behind a wife, Sara, and “two beautiful young daughters,” Victoria, 6, and Emily, 4. “ ‘I want to always be there for them,’ ” Robert Clark quoted his brother as saying.
“They didn’t get to see him a whole lot,” Robert said. In addition to his wife, daughters and brother, Sgt. Clark is survived by his stepfather, Richard Lester; his mother, Susan Collins; and his sisters, Tammy Lynn Lambert and Tammy Rene Kennedy.
“Michael was a devoted husband and very loving father, son, brother and great friend who did many wonderful things,” Robert Clark wrote in a eulogy, which calls the Marine “a fallen hero who will never be forgotten.”
“Everyone who knew Michael will hold him dear to their heart,” Robert’s eulogy states.
“He saved my life twice,” Robert Clark said. He said his brother tended to him when he was shot in the eye with a BB gun. On another occasion, Robert Clark said, he slashed his foot on a glass aquarium.
“My mom froze,” Robert Clark said, but his brother wrapped the foot up in a beach towel and stopped the bleeding. Robert Clark said his brother also cared for him constantly during his childhood. Their father had died and their mother worked two jobs.
“He was always there for us,” Robert Clark said. “He was my older brother, he was my father figure.”
The boys’ childhood was filled with football games, brotherly brawls and bicycling around Eustis, Lester and Robert Clark remembered. Robert Clark said his brother taught him to shoot pool at Frank’s Place.
“I was a little tagalong,” Robert said. “He always wanted to be in some branch of the service,” Robert Clark said. He said Clark watched westerns and old war movies and said, “I’m going to be one of them guys (soldiers) one day.”
Richard Lester said that he encouraged Clark to join the Marines.
“He needed discipline in his life,” Lester said. “He chose the right road.” Lester remembered being concerned when his son suddenly traded his long locks for a close-cropped haircut — until he realized the boy was actually joining the military.
“He was ready to go,” he said. According to Robert Clark and the Camp Pendleton release, Clark joined the Marines on April 26, 1993, at the age of 18. Robert Clark said he helped his brother train for boot camp, but after returning home his older brother could outrun and do more pushups than him — although Robert “could still do more sit-ups.”
In boot camp, Robert Clark said, the 6-foot-4-inch Clark was confronted by a 5-foot-2-inch drill instructor who gave the recruit the count of ten to stop smiling. “Mom only counted to three,” Robert Clark said. Thus, when the drill instructor asked if he scared Clark, he replied “ ‘Sir, with all due respect, sir, my mother scared me more than you do,’ ” and noted the “seven extra seconds,” according to Robert.
Clark and his fellow recruits were given 3 1/2 hours of physical training, Robert recalled. Robert Clark said his brother was “kind of a hellraiser” while attending Leesburg High School, and was once chewed out by a principal for being in the hallways despite having a hall pass. After graduating from boot camp, Clark went to the high school in his dress uniform and asked the principal, “ ‘Now who’s the nobody?’ ”
Robert Clark said his brother was near the top of his class during explosive ordinance disposal training. Clark had also completed antiterrorist training, had a degree in criminal psychology and been interviewed twice for the U.S. Secret Service before re-enlisting in the Marines, according to Robert Clark.
“He just loved anything with danger,” Robert said. “He wanted to beat the odds.”
Clark had already served one tour in Iraq dating back to when “stuff first broke out,” Robert Clark said.
“They needed the best over there, so he had to go back,” Robert Clark said. He said his brother was one of three Marines in charge of disarming bombs, at one point detonating ordinance under fire.
“He told me all kinds of stories when he was here,” Robert Clark said. “He didn’t want to go back,” Lester said, but he said Clark would rather fight enemy forces abroad than have them come to America.
According to the Camp Pendleton release, Clark has been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V,” the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
“Michael has been around the world, seen and done many different things,” Robert Clark’s eulogy states. “However, the one thing that he will always hold dear to his heart is his beautiful family.”
Mourners lit candles next to a large photograph of Clark upon hearing of his death Tuesday. “We’re going to let them burn until they go out,” Robert Clark said. He said the family would also celebrate Clark’s 30th birthday on Sunday.
Robert Clark said the family plans to scatter Clark’s ashes in different oceans in which the fallen SCUBA enthusiast had swam, and noted that Daytona Beach — one possible scattering site — was where Clark was born and married.
Staff photo by Christian Fuchs
Memorial candles burn in the home of the parents of U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Michael J. Clark. Clark was killed in Iraq’s Anbar province on Tuesday.
Rest In Peace
07-27-04, 02:59 PM #2
Rest in peace, Brother.
07-27-04, 03:10 PM #3
Semper Fi Brother you will be missed..
07-27-04, 05:04 PM #4
Semper Fi Brother. Carry On Marine.
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