REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Let your conscience -- and the Bible -- be your guide.
A slightly different spin on the classic "Pinocchio" adage, but one that Vietnam veteran and wounded warrior Allen Clark lives by. Clark, now an author and speaker, Nov. 2 Sunday at Bicentennial Chapel and shared his journey from the central highlands of South Vietnam where in 1968, he was injured in a mortar attack at Dak To Special Forces Camp and as a result, had both legs amputated below the knees.
"When you are wounded in combat, you yell out either for momma or God," he told the crowd. "I decided to go straight to the top of the chain of command."
Clark, a West Point graduate and member of the Fifth Special Forces group, commonly known as the Green Berets, attributed his survival to medic Jimmy Hill who himself was injured in the attack, ignoring the shrapnel in his shoulder to tend to Clark. The events of that day forged a lifelong bond and friendship between the two men with Hill traveling from his home in Florida to Texas for a book signing for Clark.
"Jimmy Hill in fact saved my life and I woke up the next night in a brand new world where my left leg was gone below the knee and my right one broken in five places was in a cast from my hip to where five black toes were protruding out from the white sheet," Clark said. "The right leg was amputated 10 days after the wounding."
Clark spoke of the grueling 15 months of recovery from his injuries and how in the darkest of his days, the only thing that brought him back to the light was a renewed faith in God.
"I actually became bitter towards God and cried out, 'Why me?'" he told the crowd. "We do that when bad things happen to us, don't we?"
While in those bleak days, Clark experienced a spiritual transformation that helped him to heal those emotional wounds and has since guided him through his life.
"At a church service in the 1970s, my church pastor began to preach about the great longtime struggle and conflict between good and evil between God and Satan for over 6,000 years of recorded history. At that service I realized that I had shed my blood for which I wear my Purple Heart for freedom in Caesar's world, but my savior shed his blood on the cross at Calvary 2,000 years ago so we could all have freedom from oppression and from our own souls so often caused by the attacks on our minds, emotions and will by Satan's soldiers or our own unwise decisions -- our 'stupids' as I call them.
"I teared as I looked at this flag of the great United States of America and I changed that day. I realized that I almost died for what the flag represented. … That day I went to a new plateau -- a new world to where Jesus became not only savior of whom I had head knowledge at that point, but relationally with the soul-filling of he becoming Lord of my life."
Clark would later go on to a successful career in the public sector as the assistant secretary for veterans liaison and program coordination and later the director of the national cemetery system for the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to these roles, he is also a published author of an autobiography, "Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior" and "Valor in Vietnam: Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice." Through his lay ministry, "Combat Faith," he counsels other veterans suffering from combat related stress by sharing his experiences and the spiritual faith that has guided him.
"I know that healing is possible, because it happened for me," he said.