On the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1954, Veterans Day was enacted by Congress to honor those who have served and sacrificed in the military. Among those honored on this special day, is Retired Capt. Scott Clark.
Clark enlisted in the Arizona Army National Guard in 1984, taking inspiration from his uncle, a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in World War II, and his father, a helicopter pilot.
“One night he (his father) was having dinner with another helicopter pilot and I thought, that sounds like a bunch of fun,” Clark said. “How do I get to do that? The next thing I know I’m signing the dotted line.”
At the age of 17, Clark began his career, working hard, following in his father’s footsteps, and climbing the ladder to become an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot. He relished in his newfound experiences with the military.
“I was really enjoying working on helicopters and working with people much older than what I was, just a lot of fun,” Clark explained as he reflected back on the beginning of his career.
He went on to deploy several times throughout his twenty-seven years, including deployments to Afghanistan and El Salvador. And although the distance was challenging, he always found a way to maintain communication with this wife, whether through phone calls or handwritten letters.
“Modern technology had not caught up with the military yet,” Clark said. “There were no Skypes or Zooms. Telephone calls were extremely expensive and long-distance was about $400 a month.”
With family never far from his heart, similarly, the friendships he made in the military were just as important and continue to have an impact on his life today.
“The friends were amazing,” Clark continued. “The people were top bar in everything with the ability to get handed an unwinnable, unobtainable goal, but given the expectation together by their superiors, and they have to figure it out. These people consistently come up with the answer to unwinnable situations and they always won. The people were just amazing — the friendships were amazing.”
The bonds made while serving to contribute to the person he is today.
Lending a helping hand to mentor other leaders in their careers was something he was dedicated to during his last few years in the Arizona National Guard. But after giving 27 years of his life to the military, Clark was eventually medically discharged due to injuries sustained in a helicopter crash.
“The armor plate I was wearing actually impacted my throat several times and causes me now to lose my voice and have extreme pain — it’s called dislocated thyroid cartilage,” Clark explained as he spoke about one of the injuries he sustained in the crash.
Despite having an injury that affects his daily life, he has taken the negative and turned it into a positive. Clark now runs a support group in an outreach program for the veteran community. The group, Christ Centered Healing for Combat Trauma, meets four times a week.
Reflecting on his career and that of his fellow service members, Clark ended the interview with gratitude for the veteran community. “Thank you for a job well done — you’re amazing and we owe you a debt we just cannot pay.”
From his position in the air to those on the ground and at sea, their service and sacrifice will not be forgotten. Honoring them on Veterans Day is a small token of our appreciation and an important time of reflection.