CONYERS - Tommy Clack is a man who likes to get things done. As a field office manager for the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, Clack works to ensure that veterans in Georgia receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
His service to veterans extends far beyond his job, however. Clack also works tirelessly to honor veterans, speaking frequently at ceremonies, dedications and to civic and school groups throughout the state.
Clack, a retired Army captain who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, is especially committed to honoring the veterans of the "Greatest Generation," the men and women who served in the armed forces in World War II. In 2004, as the nation prepared for the dedication of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., Clack worked to coordinate more than 300 local ceremonies throughout Georgia for those who could not afford to travel to Washington. He also researched and prepared a document detailing the contributions of World War II veterans and those who worked on America's home front.
But Clack isn't done; he has one more job to do in his quest to honor veterans of the Greatest Generation. His goal: to present every veteran in Georgia with a replica of the World War II Honorable Service lapel pin and the multi-colored ribbon of the World War II Victory Medal. The sponsor of this project is the nonprofit Georgia Veterans Leadership Program Inc., of which Clack is president. Other board members are Ken Bradley, vice president; Mike Mantegna, secretary/treasurer; James Blaylock; Tom Carter; Ron Miller; and Don Wall.
The Honorable Service Pin, also known as "the Ruptured Duck," was originally a cloth insignia depicting an eagle inside a wreath. It was issued to every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman who was honorably discharged between Sept. 8, 1939, and Dec. 31, 1946. The insignia was a signal to others that the personnel had been discharged and were not AWOL while in transit home. According to World War II lore, the insignia got its name because many thought the eagle looked more like a duck. And because it was issued to those who were going home, the phrase, "They took off like a Ruptured Duck," took hold and generated the nickname.
The cloth insignia was later replaced by a small lapel pin so it could be worn with civilian attire.
Clack estimates there are about 98,000 World War II veterans still living in Georgia. According to his most recent numbers, there are approximately 5,700 in Newton County and 8,000 in Rockdale. His goal now is to complete this project and present all Georgia World War II veterans with the pins at ceremonies throughout the state this summer.
"The idea is to honor them one more time for what they did for the world," Clack said.
The only thing standing in his way is funding for the pins. Clack said the total cost of the pins is $121,000; of that cost, $90,000 remains to be paid before the pins can be distributed.
Clack encouraged churches and civic groups to consider contributing to the cause to honor their members who served in World War II. "I've purchased nearly 300 myself and presented them in ceremonies," he said. "I can't tell you how many veterans have cried."
Anyone interested in contributing to the effort to honor Georgia's living World War II veterans may call Clack at 770-786-2302. Contributions may be mailed to Georgia Veterans Leadership Program Inc., 2274 Salem Road, Suite 106, Box 114, Conyers, GA 30013.