BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with David McLean, May 3, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with David McLean, May 3, 2008
Date:
May 3, 2008
Description:
Interview with retired chaplain David McLean.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  McLean, David Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  5/3/2008 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  40 minutes

 

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I am a staff member with the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Randall Library. Today is the 3rd of May, 2008, and this recording is part of the Military Chaplain's Oral History Project, supported by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. We're recording in Kansas City, Missouri, and our interviewee today is Chaplain Retired, David McLean. Good morning, sir.

McLean: Good morning.

Zarbock: Chaplain, what individual or series of individuals or events led you into the selection of the ministry as your profession and occupation?

McLean: I guess, growing up as a child, our family was quasi-involved in the church. The church was a significant part of our life, but we weren't one of those who were there every Sunday, but felt the importance of church and our relationships to God and growing spiritually.

Zarbock: Where were you raised?

McLean: Mobile, Alabama. Grew up there and got a local Methodist church there. Had Vacation Bible School and those kinds of events that we got involved in. And after a few years in and out, some years very active and other years totally inactive. But probably about my beginning high school years, we got involved in a new church in the neighborhood where we'd moved to, and Reverend Billy Frank Hall was the pastor, and just had a real influence on my life as a teenager and youth program, and the involvement in the community and the concern about world affairs that we as a youth group and as a church were concerned about. So, that's kind of where our beginnings were, and shortly after or right during high school, my senior year, I felt the call into the pastoral ministry, and...

Zarbock: What year was that, Chaplain, when you graduated from high school?

McLean: Nineteen-sixty-seven. And that was kind of built up in the midst of Vietnam and things that were taking place there, so I was very cognitive of, you know, the military and what was going on. I had a brother that was in the TET, and also a brother-in-law.

Zarbock: Well, where did you go to college?

McLean: I went to Auburn University in Montgomery. Started out a Huntington College, a Methodist school there in Montgomery, and then transferred when they opened the new campus at Auburn University Montgomery. I finished up there and then went from there over to Emory University in Atlanta. And during that same time period, I was serving a small church in Prattville, Alabama, serving in what they call student pastorate. So, the church was very kind to me, helping me grow, and we were serving together.

Zarbock: What year did you finish seminary?

McLean: I completed my seminary in 1975, and then from that, of course, following seminary, I was reappointed. My first church there-- I stayed there the seven years during college and seminary, went back and forth. Of course, it was close to Montgomery, so during the college years it was very convenient, but during the seminary years, the three years in Atlanta, there were a group of us pastors who would ride together. We'd leave usually on Monday morning real early and get back Thursday evening, just in time to get prepared for the weekend, do hospital visits, those kinds of activities. So, it was quite an experience.

Zarbock: But serving, as I understand from other chaplains, serving as you did in the small congregation, you were introduced to the pettiness, and you were introduced to the heroism that'd take place.

McLean: Oh, absolutely.

Zarbock: And every shade in between.

McLean: Exactly. Yeah. And we were struggling during those years with the race issues and also with the merger in our own church of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical Brethren Church, and there we became the United Methodist Church in 1968. And some of our congregations weren't quite sure exactly what that was going to mean.

Zarbock: And furthermore, "I don't like it."

McLean: Exactly. Without even understanding what it would mean. Yeah, it didn't make a whole lot of difference, other than making us a broader and more inclusive church, and...

Zarbock: And I'm sure somebody, if they didn't say it, thought it. "What does that young man know? I'm three times his age."

McLean: Absolutely. Absolutely. [laughs] And that's why I said they were very kind and gracious, you know, and helped me in a lot of growing areas. I think also though that they had a great respect for the church and for the pastorage. So, they knew I was learning and growing as well as them. And I think a bottom line is this. We provided pastoral care to them, especially in those areas of baptizing the babies and marrying the folks, and burying their folks. Almost regardless of age, you know, they kind of took me in. They used to call me their "boy preacher," [laughs] because like you said, being so young. But they were very gracious and we worked together through all of the issues and sometimes very tough struggling issues. And we talked about, what were the Biblical principles? Not, you know, what we thought or felt or were concerned with culturally. What did the Bible tell us to do and to be?

Zarbock: But those could be angry times in places where segregation, desegregation was discussed and sometimes very violently.

McLean: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And we had some heated discussions in the church, but like I said, we always decided, "Hey, you know, what is the right thing to do?" Whether we understood it in our minds from cultural experience, or not. What did God command us and how did we find the spirit to move through that and become more inclusive of eachother?

Zarbock: Well, after strenuous intellectual basic training like that, what led you into the chaplaincy?

McLean: Well, that's interesting. I always felt an obligation to my country. But, due to my college and my seminary training and my work in the church, and also the fact that I'd had an accident when I was 19, at my church, and had lost these fingers.

Zarbock: How did that happen?

McLean: In a woodworking accident. Remodeling the parsonage that I was living in. So I was exempt from military service and yet, I wanted to serve. I wanted to go in. So after seminary, had a man in my church who was in a National Guard Unit, and he said, "You know, we need a chaplain." And I said, "Well, I'll be glad to come over there." And then another chaplain in the unit said, "Well, why don't you, you know, sign up for the National Guard chaplaincy"? And I said, "Well, I have a physical disability and I was told that I couldn't." And he said, "Oh, no." Said, "As a chaplain you're a noncombatant." He said there are waivers for that. So we went, you know, and wrote up a waiver request for an exemption and I started serving that National Guard unit.

Zarbock: The year is now what?

McLean: 1976.

Zarbock: And how old were you?

McLean: At that time, I'm 28. I had just completed my seminary.

Zarbock: But your personal knowledge and experience in the military was nil.

McLean: Nil. None whatsoever. No. Prior to--didn't even know how to put on a uniform. But as always, I knew there were a lot of folks who would help me, teach me, and train me, and show me how to do that.

Zarbock: And that's what happened?

McLean: Exactly.

Zarbock: What was your rank? Are you in the National Guard now?

McLean: I was in the National Guard at that time. Served in the National Guard for one year, and that was the intention, that I would serve my local church there in Alabama, plus be in the National Guard. And they were good, because you could go over and do services on Friday or Saturdays and you could still be at your church, your pastorage, on Sunday. So, you know, you just kind of made up your drill day for Sunday one other day during the week.

Zarbock: What outfit were you in, in the National Guard, in those days?

McLean: The Alabama State National Guard 122nd Support Group.

Zarbock: What does a Support Group do?

McLean: A Support Group is an overall, sort of like a Division DISCOM Unit; supply and so forth, for several units. So, it was a headquarters. And there were, in there, there were four chaplains in that unit spread out, you know, throughout the state.

Zarbock: Who taught you? I'm being serious. Somebody has to teach us everything. I interviewed a young chaplain not so long ago that said he had no idea where to put on his insignia, and he finally got a book that said, "This is where you put it on." Did you have to follow that, or did somebody-- ?

McLean: Absolutely. Yeah. And just like it said, this is an officer's guide for uniforms and so forth. Where your rank goes, how many inches, what side, how many-- five-eighths of an inch or three-fourths of an inch, and what side the rank goes on and what side the U.S. Army goes on, and which side the nametag goes on...

Zarbock: And woe be unto you, if you get it mixed up.

McLean: Well, and you always-- you know, when you put that uniform on, you try to look at the book. And then, when you got to your drill unit, initially you wanted to make sure that, "Hey, check me out. Have I got everything right?" [laughs] And even as a senior officer, there have been times that I would put it on the wrong side. You know, you lay it down and you say "Right, left." And then pick it up, and then somebody says, "Hey, you know you got your name on the wrong side?" [laughs] So, you always need somebody to check you out. Off the cuff, you stay straight on that.

Zarbock: I'm going to share something with you. I interviewed a chaplain who was working in a mortuary. Talking about checking out people-- and he said, "You can always learn everything you need to know, by going through a decedent's wallet." Because what you carry in your wallet, a man, are the photographs and the memorabilia that are important to you, personally important to you. You don't lug along a picture of somebody else's pet dog.

McLean: That's right.

Zarbock: If there's a dog in the picture, it was your dog.

McLean: Very special to you. Yeah. That's true.

Zarbock: Well, you spent how long in the National Guard?

McLean: One year. During that time, as a matter of fact, they would say, you know, that there was no way that you could go on active duty, that was 1976, 1977, and the military was going through somewhat of a drawdown after Vietnam. And you know, I really had no desire to go on active duty, but our endorsing agent spoke with me and said, "Hey, would you like to go on active duty?" And I said, "Well," I said. "Yeah." And at that time, we had allocations, quotas, for denominations. You could only have so many Methodists, you could only have so many Baptists, so many Lutherans, Presbyterians and so forth. And the United Methodist was pretty much full at that time, so it was unusual that I would even get the opportunity. And he said, "I've got an authorization in the Air Force, or you could go in the Navy." And I said, "Well, I'm in the Army National Guard, and if I went on active duty, I'd like to go Army, because I think that's what I'd enjoy most: being with a unit, being with troops in the field. I said, you know, "I love the Air Force, grew up around it in Mobile and in Montgomery. Had two brothers that were in the Air Force, and a brother-in-law." I said, "But you know, I think I would fit better in the Army." And I said, "Now if you get an Army slot, I might consider that." He called me about a month later and said, "Hey, I've got an Army slot." [laughs] And I said, "Okay." And I said-- And at that time you do what they call Obligation Volunteer, OBV, three-year obligation, you know, that you volunteered for, and that's all I was considering. I was going to go do three years' active duty and then go back to the local church.

Zarbock: What was your military rank at that time?

McLean: At that time, I was a captain. Well, as a matter of fact, during those days you were commissioned as a first lieutenant and then, almost immediately, you made captain. So I made captain when I was in the National Guard and then came on active duty, also came on as a captain. And my first duty assignment was the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I said, you know, "If I'm going to be in this Army," I said, "I need to know how it operates." And I said, "Let me start off, you know, with a hard assignment and then if we make it, it'd be good." I said, "I'd rather start with a hard and then be ready for it." So we went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, went to Air Assault School. Did that and then was there for two years.

Zarbock: And you're the man who couldn't get into the military because of a...

McLean: Yeah, a disability.

Zarbock: A disability. And you end up in paratrooper school?

McLean: Well, Air Assault School, with the ropes, here, [laughs] Well, that was what was interesting. With my fingers gone, they wouldn't let me go to Airborne School, but they would let me go to Air Assault School, which...

Zarbock: And shimmying down the rope?

McLean: Yeah; that's right, yeah. And actually, I didn't say anything to them about it [laughs] until I'd already gone through the course, you know.

Zarbock: Could you do it?

McLean: Yeah. Yeah, I learned to work with that. I didn't have quite as much strength in that hand as you do in this hand, but I said, "Well, let me just go through it and do it" [laughs] and...

Zarbock: Let's spend just a minute with this, because, again, years from now, some of the words you and I use will not be understood. So what is Air Assault?

McLean: Air Assault School is where you go in and you use the belay ropes. The helicopters will take you up; you've seen it on television and so forth, and you rappel out of the side of the helicopter. There's a lot of what we refer to as the SWAT teams that come in from the top of the building and then swing in. And they found out a lot of times you can get folks in quicker, that way, you know, more tactically efficient sometimes than taking in an entire big airborne thing. You can pick up folks with the helicopters and move them over and let them rappel. So those were the two big units, the air assault division and the airborne division. [laughs] But it was fine.

Zarbock: Well, after you finished your training in air assault, where were you assigned?

McLean: Well, I finished the two years there and then they were looking for people to go to Korea, unaccompanied, without their families.

Zarbock: I'm sorry. You were married at this time?

McLean: Yes. Married and had four children. And so, my wife and I said, "Well, you know, if we don't stay in the military, we know that there's a possibility of having being to be deployed and having to be separated and having to be mobilized. And so, we said, you know, "Early in our career, let's see what impact it has on our family."

Zarbock: This is your wife speaking?

McLean: Yeah, both of us talking to each other.

Zarbock: Well, what a courageous couple.

McLean: Well, we kind of knew those were the risks, you know, that you had to take. And it's not for everybody, and we weren't sure that we could spend, you know, a career of 20 years doing that. But we said, "Hey. Okay, God..." and we did feel called to that ministry. After we got in it, we found out that we had a chapel, a great community, but we were also able to minister to the spiritual and social and religious needs of people who had no church. Because we were, you know, their pastor, their chaplain, in that unit, and we're able to talk to them and help them with character guidance programs, and you know, it was-- other needs of the social adjustments, the young, you know, late teen kids coming in. And at that time, many of them were coming in, married. They were starting to change, from where we'd often had a-- you know, young military that were mostly single; now, many of them were coming in with families. So that was a new adjustment, you know. How do they make ends meet? How do they, you know, get the wives back and forth to the hospital and to the doctor appointments, and still, you know, have their troop time?

Zarbock: What was the chaplain's role in such as that? The integration of the family into military demands?

McLean: Talking to them, helping them, counseling, parenting. "Systematic Training for Effective Parenting" was one of the programs that we used to do all the time. And part of that was just, you know, hey, you know, these kids would come into this community and they didn't have aunts and uncles and folks around that they could turn to. So we would set up programs, and the units would let the troops come to that for training. Because we knew, even then, you know: hey, if the family's taken care of, then the soldier is going to be more effective. And those were the kinds of programs that we would set up. And do retreats. Give them the opportunity to learn about each other. And also to let the spouses-- and in those days, it was mostly, you know, male soldiers. Oh course, I was with an infantry unit during that time, and, you know, the female spouses and family members.

Zarbock: Well, did you end up in Korea?

McLean: Ended up there. Did one year on the unaccompanied tour and was able to come home midway through that.

Zarbock: What outfit were you assigned to?

McLean: With the 36th Signal Battalion in Korea. And within that battalion, being a Methodist, circuit riding's kind of second nature to us. So, the unit that I had, had 25 different microwave sites all over the mountains of Korea from Euijeongbu, all the way down to Pusan. And my job was to go around and visit every one of those sites at least once a month. And I would, we had a long jeep, and me and my assistant would get in that jeep, and we would go up to those microwave sites and visit those folks and talk to them, watch movies with them, eat supper with them. And I always provided a worship service. And then we'd go back down the hill and go to the next one. You know, I did that for an entire year. Made for a fast tour, [laughs] because we were on the road all the time.

Zarbock: Well, my experience in Korea suggests that in the wintertime, things got a little grim.

McLean: Oh, goodness yes. Absolutely. Sometimes it was very difficult to get up to those mountains, you know. One of the interesting things about that, I had been at Fort Campbell with a Chinook battalion when I...

Zarbock: What Chinook is that?

McLean: A Chinook is that big one. The big, with the dull blades on top and, big transport helicopter. And it just so happened, that a lot of those guys out of my unit also went to Korea, and those Chinook battalions-- because they would take supplies to the mountain tops to the signal sites. Every once in a while, I would know which guys were there and, instead of us having to drive down the mountain, which sometimes could take a good two hours only to drive up one. We would take that jeep and just drive it into the back of the helicopter, and they would fly us to the next mountain top, and it was fun. It was exciting. We got to know each other and love each other and support each other, and struggled with each other through the separations and the difficult times. And, of course, we'd always meet up with each other and sometimes there'd be good news, and sometimes there'd be bad news as to what was going on in the home front; Family struggles and issues and so forth, and sometimes, marriages didn't make it, you know. And there was some families who couldn't take the stress and the strains and the separations. And, you know, those were the kinds of decisions that folks had to struggle with. And a lot of times they wanted to talk about that, and say, "Hey, Chaplain, you know, I have to weigh this thing; my career in the military," or "my family." And we would really have to sit down and have some serious counseling and thought and prayer about that.

Zarbock: Chaplain, I'll do a little role-playing. I'm up on the top of a mountain and I'm a PFC. And I get a letter from home, saying that my mother is very, very ill. Number one, how do I get in touch? What is the procedure?

McLean: There is usually a Red Cross notification that the mother of the family-- and this is one of the things we train on early on, we're all taught; be sure and let your family know where you are and how to best get in touch with you. In those days, everything was snail mail, and if you could get a phone call through you were lucky. And if you got one through you were really lucky if you could hear what each other was saying. [laughs] And so, you had to get an official notification where a doctor said, "Hey, service member's presence is needed. You know, serious illness or death is eminent." And we'd try to get that notification to the soldier, often through the command. First sergeant, or the platoon sergeant, or squad sergeant would go and talk to this young PFC.

Zarbock: After your tour in Korea, where did you go?

McLean: I went from there to Fort Rucker, Alabama, with the Army Aviation Training Center. And those were really, really difficult times. When we went there in 1980, during the Fall of '80 and Spring of '81, we just had a series of tragedies and crashes with the helicopters at the training center, there. We lost 18 aviators in a 13 month period. Had a couple of the helicopters collided with each other. Had a couple of, in those days, the old Cobra, to go down. Had a couple of the Mohawks to crash. It was really a difficult year for us. At that time, I was covering the chapel plus the hospital, and it was my job, usually, because we were one of the first ones notified when a crash went down, you know, and you mentioned the mortuary awhile ago, that-- I'd go to the hospital and sometimes make the notifications with commanders to the families, and then follow up, also, with the folks at the hospital, the forensic folks having to do all of the photography and so forth, and these were with very, very young soldiers. But it was their job, you know, to take the pictures. It was gruesome, it was difficult, and I would go in a lot of times just to be with them. To be a presence. And for us to say, "Yeah, this is difficult work, it's a difficult service," but it's a ministry that's needed for the families in preparation of the remains.

So that was, you know, two and a half years that I did that at the Fort Rucker with the aviation center. After that first year, we didn't have quite the same bad safety issues that we'd had the first year, so, you know, we were-- everything kind of settled down. But it's amazing how you'll go through a, you know, square to that and, you know, one crash, and then another crash and then you're just-- the timing on that.

Zarbock: That's a destroyer of morale.

McLean: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, I mean, a lot of folks were experiencing it and feeling it, and it impacted the entire community, from the commanding general to every family member, to the retirees that were there in our chapel, you know.

Zarbock: And the helplessness of, "How can I prevent an accident?" Well, how do you prevent an accident? There wouldn't be any accidents if you could prevent them.

McLean: That's right. And just like we said, you know, before, somebody was talking about training, you know, for war. You know, we've lost so many people in training. There is a danger in preparing as well as in being in war. Especially when you're flying helicopters. Very, very difficult.

Zarbock: I hold a personal belief that they are all un-airworthy.

McLean: Absolutely. [laughs]

Zarbock: And by the way, a comment, tongue-in-cheek, here: for a guy that joined the Army, you spent an awful lot of time in the air.

McLean: I know it. Oh, it was amazing. I started off with the Infantry Unit. And that's what they do for training, initially, when we came in. Young chaplain, and you go with the ground bounders, the infantry, for a year. And then you move into another kind of unit, so that you get a feel for how big the Army is, and how things-- so my second year at Fort Rucker, I was with an aviation battalion, then it was the signal battalion, there, in Korea, and then back with the aviators at Fort Rucker.

Zarbock: I'm waiting. What happened after Fort Rucker?

McLean: Oh, my goodness. We were there, back home, Alabama was home, and we were thinking then, that, "Hey, okay, God, where do we go? Do we stay here? Do we get out? Do we stay in the National Guard, or do we go home?" And they selected me for civilian schooling and sent me back to Emory University for Clinical Pastoral Education, which is-- and then sent me to a hospital unit. And, partly because of some of my hospital experience at Fort Rucker working with that. And so, I said, "You know, we like this. This is good." [laughs] And, you know, there you were, working with retirees, you were working with young soldiers-- so this was in Europe, in Germany, after my schooling in Atlanta. And we enjoyed Germany so much, the family and I, that we decided that we would like to extend, over there. And so, after three years in Germany at the hospital, we asked for an extension and they granted it, and said, "Yeah, you can stay here." And two weeks later, they called me and they said, "We know that we said you could extend and you could stay there, but, we really need a chaplain to go to Vicenza, Italy." And, I said, "Well, is that an 'asking question,' or a 'telling question'"? [laughs] And they said, "Well, go home and talk to your family about it. We know that you've extended for one year. But we'd like for you to go down there and help us out." The guy that was supposed to go there had been injured in a motorcycle accident and couldn't make it, so they needed to...

Zarbock: What sort of outfit was there?

McLean: That was an infantry unit down at a Southern European Task Force, airborne unit in Vicenza, Italy, a field artillery unit. Then, even one of the battalions that we had out of there was down in Greece, so...

Zarbock: Greece?

McLean: Yeah. We had one of the artillery units down there.

Zarbock: The Army sure gets around.

McLean: Oh, it does. So we loved it. We had a great time. I was the pastor there, at the chapel and served a unit as well, and had a great experience.

Zarbock: Where did you live?

McLean: We lived on post in the base housing, what they called it, and it was a wonderful community experience, and also being among the Italian people, there.

Zarbock: How were your kids getting along?

McLean: They were doing fine. They enjoyed the uniqueness and the cultural experience. And during that time we only came back, out of those five years, we only came back to the States once, to be able to visit. So, it was-- and, of course, there, in the military when you're stationed overseas like that, especially, everybody becomes family. You're a family to each other.

Zarbock: What year was it you ended up in Italy?

McLean: That was 1984, in Germany, to '87. And then '87 to '89 in Italy.

Zarbock: And what was your rank at the time?

McLean: Major.

Zarbock: And, again, how old were you?

McLean: Let's see. '89, I would have been about 41 at the time.

Zarbock: Okay, prime of life.

McLean: Yeah. Things were going good.

Zarbock: Well, hang on, because good things don't last forever.

McLean: No. That's right. That's it, exactly.

Zarbock: What happened after Italy?

McLean: Well, it was interesting. We came back and-- from Germany. I asked to go either to Fort Benning, Georgia or to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, or back to Fort Campbell. Any of those were big units. It shouldn't be hard placing a United Methodist there. And so, they said, "No." Said, "We need for you to go to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama." And so I said, "Hey, whatever the needs of the Army, and that's where we'll go". And we went there and loved it. It was a great, great experience. Had the Ordinance Missile Command there. We helped deploy a lot of the units to the first Gulf War. And so, you know, we watched that experience with the young soldiers, and the families and the family support group, units and so forth, there, so that was exciting times, as well. And then, of course, as you know, immediately after that, the Army again, 1991, 2 and 3, began another rapid drawdown, you know. So, we lived through that. [laughs] And then, I will look at that-- we went from there, to-- I was supposed to go back to Germany in 1993. And they called us at the last minute, again, and said, "Hey, we need for you to go to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania," and...

Zarbock: That's good duty.

McLean: Oh, it was wonderful. We had no clue what it was. But at that time, I was a Lieutenant Colonel, and they needed a pastor, there at the chapel at the War College. And it was myself-- and the senior chaplain was a Catholic priest by the name of Tony Enberry. Tony and I had worked together and served together in Germany. And when he was assigned there as the installation chaplain, he wanted to know if I'd come up there and work with him. And I said, "Sure. We'll do it." [laughs] So we went there, and it was a wonderful experience. A wonderful time of working with senior officers and families, and some of the experiences that they were going through. I was there for two years and then came up on a list again to go to Korea, unaccompanied. And at that time I went back there as the 2nd Infantry Division Chaplain. And met a wonderful guy by the name of Tommy Franks, General Franks. He was our commanding general there, and it was a hoot. We had a great division, had a great group of chaplains, and, of course, all of us there unaccompanied. You know, families back in the States and we were over there, but, again, it was a great time, you know, and...

Zarbock: What was he like?

McLean: Oh, just a-- what you see is what you get, with General Tommy Franks. A very genuine guy, deeply spiritually committed, and he's a cowboy. [laughs] And that's what I loved about him. He was just very gracious and, man, when he was there and chapel was open, he was there. He was in attendance. He and his wife, both.

Zarbock: He had the reputation of being quite a driver though, wasn't he?

McLean: Oh, well, you know what? He was a driver, but you enjoyed working with him. I never saw him humiliate or demean anybody. He would kid with you, he would joke with you. I mean, yeah, you're right, he was a driver. We went, you know, 18 hours a day. But everybody loved him.

Zarbock: And he did, too.

McLean: Yeah, he did. That's right. Just a high energy, fun-loving, committed, brilliant man. And loved soldiers, and loved taking care of people, and being around people, so. And that was a great experience for us. And we came back. After that, I worked at Force Com Headquarters, you know, and after that, went to Fort Knox. And then the big part of my career kind of culminated in 2000 after I was selected to the National War College and went there for a year. Then they kind of asked, "Where would you like to go?" and I said, "Hey, I'll go anywhere you want me to." At that time, I was, let's see, that was 2000? I'd have been about 51 or 52 years old. And I said, "We would like to go back to Europe one more time." And so they said, "Okay." So they said, "You've had hospital experience before. We've got a hospital in Germany, Landstuhl, Rammstein Medical Center, there." In 2000, I mean, it was-- things were quiet and peaceful.

Zarbock: And you were close to an air base again.

McLean: Oh, and we were right there across-- yep. And we got there in 2000, and then, as you know, October of 2000, the USS Cole was attacked. All of those casualties were brought to Landstuhl, flown in there, and then, of course, immediately after that with 9/11, 2001, and Afghanistan and the forces that went in there. Everything out of that theater; the injuries, the casualties, were brought through Landstuhl. And even, too, the ramp ceremonies, the transporting of the remains were brought to Rammstein during those days, and then-- well, up to the mortuary at Landstuhl, re-iced, bodies prepared, you know, for transport on over the Fort Dix or Dover, and home. So, we, of course, went from kind of a very quiet hospital to the maimed and injured, and...

Zarbock: Full-throttle fall.

McLean: Oh! It would. I mean, literally we were at, you know, 24-hours, 7 days a week, being there, receiving all of the patients. Not only the war wounds, but the war injuries and illnesses that go with it, and, you know, the dehydrations, and the diabetics, and folks with a heart problem being stressed and pushed, you know.

Zarbock: Broken bones in an accident.

McLean: Absolutely. So...

Zarbock: Did you end up in any of the desert conflict?

McLean: I, following Landstuhl, I stayed there for four years and then went to Fort Leavenworth as command chaplain, they have a combined arms center. And while I was there, I was asked to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan on a joint task force. Went there to...

Zarbock: Whose mission was what?

McLean: Well, it was a SIMCOM mission and we landed-- of course went from half-way around the world. Remember when the earthquake hit Pakistan?

Zarbock: Yes.

McLean: That became a military humanitarian mission. And we brought units out of Europe, out of Japan, out of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. We brought units that were planning to deploy. There was, again, aviation unit, Chinook battalion out of Kansas City, that was online to be deployed to Afghanistan, but was moved up and we went into Afghanistan early, and so that we could give the humanitarian aid in Pakistan.

Zarbock: What year was that?

McLean: 2000 to late 2005.

Zarbock: What was life like?

McLean: It was very, very, very hectic. Very difficult. And, at that time, I was with soldiers that had been deployed to Iraq, had a-- Well, one unit that I was with, the 212th MASH out of Germany, they had been deployed to Kosovo, got back from Kosovo, and then was immediately deployed to Iraq; this was in 2002. And then got back from Iraq, and then immediately, in 2005, they were again deployed to Afghanistan and to help in this...

Zarbock: You're talking about an unaccompanied assignment.

McLean: Yes, and they were constantly rotating like that, yeah, to...

Zarbock: What did that do to morale?

McLean: It had both a good effect and a bad effect. The good effect was that people were doing their missions and they were committed and dedicated to it, okay. The bad effect out of it was that, you know, you can only do that for so long, until you start losing your connections with your families and with the rest of life. You know, being a soldier is an important part of life, but it's not all of life. And you have to keep that in balance with family and with the rest of the civilian community that we live in, in the world. And that becomes a struggle. You know, soldiers make great sacrifices. Some of it is appreciated by the civilian world and some of it is not. But sacrifice is not about whether or not it's appreciated. Sacrifice is about what's needed, and...

Zarbock: By the way, what are you doing for time?

McLean: I've got about three minutes.

Zarbock: Okay. Then, let me ask the question I've asked of all. Chaplain, here's a stone tablet and I've got a chisel and a hammer. And I'm beginning to chisel a sentence that says, "When it was all finished, Chaplain McLean had as his credo..."

McLean: Love your people. Care for them. Be where they are. Help them with their need. And know that God is with us, always.

Zarbock: Thank you, Chaplain.

McLean: Thank you, so much.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign