Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Tommy Clark, who recently retired from the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, was awarded the Georgia Commendation Medal last week at a special presentation at the Rockdale Rotary Club meeting. Pinning on the medal is Public Affairs Officer Major John Alderman. Clack now plans to devote his time to supporting the Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial at Black Shoals Lake in North Rockdale County.
CONYERS -- Although Tommy Clack officially retired earlier this year from his job in the Conyers office of the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, his advocacy for his brothers and sisters in arms has not slowed down a bit.
Clack, who 43 years ago last month lost his legs and one arm when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near his left foot during his second tour of Vietnam, will continue to devote time to a busy schedule of speaking engagements but said he's now working "full time" on a project near and dear to his heart the Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial at Black Shoals Lake in North Rockdale County.
"I've been doing the Walk of Heroes Memorial full time; that's what I'm going to dedicate the rest of my life to now," said the tireless Clack. "We've got a better-organized committee and we're reaching out even greater than before. We've instituted several programs to get the word out and raise funds."
Clack said that he recognizes that people on fixed incomes may not be able to support the memorial with one large check, so he's instituted a payment plan that makes it easier for residents to help fund the continued development of the project, which honors "the sacrifices and uncommon dedication of veterans and their families."
"We want to sustain membership where people who come on board are co-owners of the memorial," he said. "We're also going after grants and meeting with people who have money. We're doing what we need to do to make the memorial better and to systematically get the word out there. I would say that in Rockdale County alone, for every 10 citizens, we've probably only got two citizens who know that memorial is out there. It's an education process and a good challenge."
After his tour of military duty, the eighth-generation Army soldier spent a decade traversing the state and the country, speaking out for veterans and serving as a liaison between vets and the public at large.
From 1979-1993, he served as special assistant to the director of the Atlanta Veterans Administration and he served in the Rockdale office of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service from 1993 (where he toiled between 80-100 hours a week) until this past February.
"God has blessed me with certain talents and abilities and a network that has a can-do attitude," he said. "When I don't know the answer, somebody in the network does. And 'no' is not an answer there's a way to find a 'yes' out there somehow."
The DeKalb County native, who graduated from Decatur High in 1965 and eschewed a track scholarship to the University of Houston to enlist in the Army, now lives in Newton County, where he said he spends his dwindling free time reading ("For education and pleasure," he said) and shooting.
"I hunt and fish year round," said Clack. "And I shoot at least once a week to stay proficient. I also spend more time than ever with my family."
Clack's son Adam is an Army Ranger (ninth-generation Army) and recently returned from his ninth tour of duty overseas (three tours in Iraq and six tours in Afghanistan). His daughter Erin has two children, a 3-year-old son and a 9-month-old granddaughter.
"My son, who is not married, says that we've got to keep the Clack name going," he quipped.
With his latest challenge still unconquered, Clack looks forward to adding to the 47 years he's spent defending his country and uplifting those who have done the same.
"God has blessed me with a great opportunity to meet great people," he said. "They all interact with each other and build upon the network."
For more information about the Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial, visit www.walkofheroes.org or call 770-278-7000.