Back with our remaining moments and extraordinary guest, Allen Clark, right after this.
KING: Joining us now from Dallas, Texas, an extraordinary American, Allen B. Clark, author of "Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior: A Personal Story of a Vietnam Veteran Who Lost His Legs But Found His Soul."
His military commendations include Silver Star for gallantry in action, Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman's Badge, appointed to high level position in Department of Veterans' Affairs in George Bush No. 41, and currently operates a lay ministry helping veterans recover emotionally and spiritually from adverse wartime experiences.
What was the hardest thing to get over, to accept losing what you lost and going on?
ALLEN B. CLARK: Well, Larry, it was not just my legs, which was obviously the physical aspect, but eight months into my hospitalization in 1968 I went without sleep for four days.
I had really started getting really scared about what I was going to do with my life as a double-leg amputee and the horror of my amputation, and I was in a closed psychiatric ward for 14 weeks. So I had what you would call external precipitating stress for severe post- traumatic stress disorder.
KING: How did you get through it?
CLARK: Well, No. 1, I was in the closed ward, and I had psychiatric care, I had counseling and I had antidepressants for the 14 weeks, and I had to see a psychiatrist for six years.
I was always ashamed that I had, quote, "broken," and I wasn't strong enough. I was a West Point graduate, regular Army officer assigned Army Special Forces. How could I - how could this happen to me, you know?
But it was by my faith walk and my faith in the Lord. So after six years of psychiatrists and antidepressants, in 1973, from then on, because of my faith I have been able to break away from it and go on to a functional life.
KING: Did you have that faith before?
CLARK: Well, you know, in our plateauing of our faith, there is that acceptance of your Savior, and for me as a teenager that's what happened in my Christianity. And then in 1973, I just kind of went to another level of my faith, where I believe very strongly in prayer, No. 1, and, No. 2, I really began to understand this great eternal struggle between good and evil in the world and God versus the devil, candidly.
KING: Who is "Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior" written for?
CLARK: It is written for anyone out there that has had traumatic experiences in life and needs encouragement. I mean, to see the things that I have been through - double-leg amputation, post- traumatic stress disorder. My first wife divorced me after 30 years. My parents both died of severe cancer within 14 weeks of each other, significant, traumatic financial challenges in the 1980s in the Texas real estate market -- and all of these challenges and I've worked my way through them by the grace of God.
And so, it is not only for veterans to see that they can come out of these dysfunctions that we begin to have after our wartime experiences, but others can have encouragement that you can go on.
KING: Allen, are you bitter about the Vietnam War?
ALLEN: Not anymore. I was at one time, and I was actually angry at God at one time. I said, "Why me?" And I said, "Wait a minute, Allen. I mean, you're a West Point graduate, volunteered to be a cadet, you volunteered for Vietnam, you volunteered for Army Special Forces. You put yourself in harm's way. How can you now be bitter? You put yourself there, and you've suffered the consequences, but you were a proud soldier," which I was.
I'm angry at the mistakes that were made in the Vietnam War, as I'm angry at the mistakes that are being made, or have been made and continue to be made in certain ways for Iraq and Afghanistan. But I'm a soldier and I'm a patriot, and I believed in what I was doing at the time, and mistakes are made because we are human beings.
KING: Do you think we ought to think about leaving Iraq?
CLARK: I have thought often about this. I went to Walter Reed to the amputee ward and spoke with a Marine lieutenant who an amputee and several other people that are just back from the war and are suffering extensive post-traumatic stress disorder, and I believe that there is a larger strategic national security purpose for us and many other countries in the world to be served by continued involvement there and a success to bring that challenge to a successful conclusion with a democratic government.
KING: But you know it's hard when the public turns.
CLARK: No question about it, and one big difference today and my war, Larry, is that we were vilified as the warriors -- not just the war, but the warriors, and I'm just very grateful that today the American public may be against the war, but they honor the military people, and that's just a great thing to be happening.
KING: One of the high points in your life was the special award from President Reagan, right?
CLARK: Yes, yes. I was honored at the White House in 1984. I am of Hispanic heritage on my mother's side, and to have honored me there in the White House was an incredible experience for me.
KING: You are Hispanic?
CLARK: Well, my mother's name is Amalia Delafuente (ph), and she is of Hispanic heritage.
KING: You worked with, or for, Ross Perot?
CLARK: Yes. My first job after graduate school that I came back to after the military was with Ross Perot as his personal financial assistant in 1970. I had another breakdown when I was working for him, and I had to go have pills again and to see a psychiatrist, went to the hospital for a week.
So I told Ross, "Ross, I can't work to this degree of pressure. I need to have a few years where I don't work this hard." I put pressure on myself to try to be good and to be efficient and everything, so I did it to myself, and I had another kind of a mini- situation when the P.O.W.s came back in 1973. But Ross has always been just wonderful to me, and did the foreward for my book, and I'm very grateful for that.
KING: He is wonderful to all veterans.
CLARK: Yes he is. He is a gentleman that has done so much behind the scenes for so many of us.
KING: More people ought to know about it.
Allen, thank you very much.
CLARK: Thank you. I am delighted to be on the program.
KING: My pleasure. God bless. Allen B. Clark, author, "Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior: A Personal Story of a Vietnam Veteran Who Lost His Legs, but Found His Soul."
That's it for tonight. Hope you enjoyed this very diverse program. We'll be back live on Monday night. Right now stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN.
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