Editor’s note: The following story, reprinted with permission from the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer, describes the military success of Norman Park native Command Sgt. Maj. David L. Clark.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. —There are two constants at Fort Bragg.
The first is training — members of the nation's quick reaction and special operations forces at Fort Bragg hone their skills on post every day except Christmas, according to officials.
The other, at least for the past few decades, has been retired Command Sgt. Maj. David L. Clark.
Clark, 86, has more than 63 years of combined service as a soldier and civilian.
On Monday, he was honored at Fort Bragg's Noncommissioned Officer Academy, where an auditorium was named for him. It was the latest recognition for the "living legend" who was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment in 2003 and who received the Fort Bragg Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
Clark, who retired in 1984 after 35 years in uniform, continues to serve out of the Army ranks, most recently as plans and capabilities specialist and the senior Department of the Army civilian advisor to the commanding general of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
Speaking after unveiling a plaque with his likeness engraved on it, Clark said it was a pleasure and an honor to be recognized.
"This is obviously a great blessing to me," he said.
Clark said much of the credit belongs to his cadre, who "did the work 40 years ago."
"If the people that work for you don't do their job, you're going to end up as nothing," he said.
Clark said he had tremendous opportunities throughout his career in conventional and Special Forces units. He continued to jump with Fort Bragg troops until about four years ago.
"I was born a grunt, I'm still a grunt," he said.
Clark said he spent his career trying to give soldiers the tools to do their jobs.
It's a mantra he continues to repeat in his duties at the Special Warfare Center and School. There, officials said, Clark is the first person at work each morning - often appearing in the gym as early as 4:30 a.m. - and the last to leave at night.
Clark also is known for working nearly every weekend, sometimes to the chagrin of his wife, Sylvia.
"He's invaluable," said the Special Warfare Center and School's top enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Gilliand. "This is really befitting of a guy of his caliber. He's been a standard bearer and an icon everywhere he's ever been."
Gilliand and the Special Warfare Center and School's commanding general, Maj. Gen. James B. Linder, each said they often seek Clark's counsel.
"Everybody does," Gilliand said. "I don't think I've ever gone by his office when he hasn't had somebody in his office providing counsel."
Linder said Clark's contributions extend beyond the enlisted ranks.
"It's leaders like Sgt. Maj. Clark who build our officer corps," he said. "This noncommissioned officer's academy grow men like Sgt. Maj. Clark and Sgt. Maj Clark grows men like me."
"We need men like Sgt. Maj. Clark to help leaders like me find our way," Linder said.
In 1975, he was the first enlisted commandant for the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, then housed in 39, two-story World War II-era buildings.
Officials on Fort Bragg opened the new academy last year, with Clark helping to cut the ribbon. That's when he learned of the academy's plans to honor him even further. The news caught Clark off guard.
"I thought you had to be dead and I wondered if he knew something I did not know," said Clark.
When asked how the honor came to be, Clark later gave a simple piece of advise: "You just have to outlive all your enemies."