North Charleston hosts 21st annual Tribute to Veterans event
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In honor of Veterans Day, the City of North Charleston will host its annual Tribute to Veterans event.
The event will take place Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. This year, guest speaker Tara McClary Reeves will join Mayor Keith Summey and the city council at the event.
Reeves is the daughter of 1st Lt. Clebe McClary (USMC, Retired). Reeves said her father was 26 years old when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He decided to volunteer after he saw someone burn an American flag at a sporting event in lieu of the anti-war resistance. This sight infuriated him and Reeves said he volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War the very next day.
“He has always believed if this country is worth living for then it is worth dying for,” she said.
McClary’s unit was attacked by the Viet Cong. while he was serving as a platoon leader in the US Marine Corps’s First Reconnaissance. As a result of the attack, McClary lost both his left arm and his left eye. Despite being seriously wounded, McClary continued to lead his men. He received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for this courageous act.
Reeves said her father has never complained about his wounds and has always been proud of his service.
“He was not supposed to live. God spared my dad’s life,” she said, “We don’t say he lost – he gave his left arm and his left eye in service to our great nation.”
McClary served with Ralph H. Johnson, who the Charleston VA hospital is named after. Johnson sacrificed his life by throwing his body onto a grenade to save the rest of the platoon. McClary played a large part in naming the hospital after his friend, and his hero.
“That demonstration of unselfish love that Ralph did for our family will never be forgotten,” Reeves said.
McClary was only married to his wife for six months when he left for Vietnam. Reeves said that she believes all veterans are heroes, but their loved ones are as well. She said people often forget the sacrifices loved ones must make when their spouse, child, or parent has to go to war.
“Watching my mother selflessly serve my dad - because my dad has one arm and one eye and only two fingers that actually work on his right hand – he is unable to cut his steak, he is unable to button his shirt, he is unable to tie his shoestrings… I have been blessed over the course of my life to watch my mother do those things in service for him. Families of service members are serving as well and they need to be recognized,” she said.
Reeves is now the author of six books. She prides herself on being a Christian author. Each book is based on a different passage of scripture from the Bible. Her father’s story inspired her to write “Is Your Dad a Pirate?” where she shares her family’s story of resilience and faith. She said that was a question she was asked a lot growing up, but she was always proud to be “the pirate’s daughter.”
She decided to write this book to honor her father, her mother and her family, who deserve to be recognized for their service as well. She said the book is based on 1 Corinthians 13:5 and how love is not self-seeking. She wrote it after seeing everything her mother has done for her father throughout life.
Reeves’ father is just one of many veterans who have faced hardships for our country.
Reeves has dedicated a lot of her life to serving veterans and showing her appreciation to them. She said she has a special place in her heart for Vietnam veterans because she is the daughter of one, but also because she feels they did not get the homecoming they deserved.
“They were shunned and not loved like they should’ve been. So, I pray that if I could just touch one and say I am so grateful for you and I am so thankful that the Lord has left you here to share your story with my children, with my family, please tell us. I think it is so therapeutic when these men and women can share their stories. You know, my dad has physical scars that you can actually see, but there are so many hidden scars and I think those sometimes are the ones that hurt the most,” she said.
She said she just wants to show her love and appreciation for every veteran, though.
“They have seen death. They have smelled it. They live with the memories of it and they have chosen to continue on, accepting the responsibility of today and I think that’s an encouragement to all of us really,” Reeves said.
Each year, the Tribute to Veterans event honors over 500 veterans in attendance.
Tara McClary Reeves will be speaking at the event and said she is excited that, because Veteran’s Day is on a Saturday, they will get an entire weekend to be recognized.
“You hear so often that superheroes wear capes, well I think they wear the insignia of either the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard – you know I think it is important to recognize this day for what it is. It’s a celebration of those men and women that have selflessly served our country – whether it be stateside or whether it be on foreign soil. These are real heroes that we are celebrating,” Reeves said.
The Tribute to Veterans event is open to the public and all veterans are encouraged to attend. Each veteran in attendance will be recognized, as well as receive a custom-designed commemorative coin for keepsake. The event will actually be taking place on the birthday of the Marine Corps.
The Department of Defense and the Veterans Day National Committee selected North Charleston as a regional site for Veterans Day 2023. This is the 21st year that the city of North Charleston has received this designation – the only site in the state of South Carolina that has received this designation for 21 consecutive years.
Tara McClary Reeves encourages everyone to reach out to a veteran this weekend or any day.
“Reach out to a veteran this weekend and say thank you, truly thank you for your service, because I think too many of us have gotten too casual about what freedom costs,” she said.
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