Joseph “Joey” Clegg
Awarded medals: National Defense service medal; Army Commendation medal
My dad rarely spoke of his time served in military. The image shown above was taken shortly after entering basic training at age 17. It is the only picture he had of his time in the Army. There are only two pieces of paper folded in quarters that shows his service dates and his Class-A uniform jacket and cap. The way I am choosing to honor him are through my memories as a daughter of a veteran.
As a little girl I found a picture tucked away in a filing cabinet of my dad that left a lasting impression on my young mind. It gave me a great sense of pride to be a daughter of a hero. I quickly put the photo back so I wouldn’t get in trouble for finding it. After many months my young curious mind wanted to hear the story behind the picture I found. It was a fall day and I asked my dad if he was in the Army. My dad softly laughed. At that point, I had just told on myself, I tearfully told him I found his picture and how he was my hero. He softly replied “Lissa, I am not the hero I was in the tents drafting, the heroes were all the young men on the front lines.” That’s all he said, until several years later when I told him I wanted to join the Army to become a nurse to serve the men he spoke so highly of on the front lines. His soft demeanor quickly changed, which I now recognize in other Veterans, and became lost and sternly said not to join. As my 18th birthday was approaching I expressed again to my dad my will to join when I turn 18. My dad’s reaction this time was different as he sat down to begin to share a little window of his service. He remembered the rice fields, the young Vietnamese faces, and the way the troops were treated when they arrived home. He shared one more thought of how he often felt guilty for the young men who didn’t come home “normal,” like his brother, Dennis, or didn’t get to come home at all. My heart softened and my eyes welled up with tears, as my sense of pride changed to a deep respect for my father and Uncle Denny. My dad softly spoke “Lissa, your heart is too soft and I don’t want to see that change. He began to laugh and said “Plus, you cannot cry in the military.” It was five years later I started dating Billy, who had recently separated from the Army. The day Billy met my dad they instantly bonded over their military brotherhood. That is when my dad started talking more about his experiences while serving. The two of them would often laugh over shared stories from boot camp, the best and worse MRE’s, early run marches, and of course guns. I believe, by sharing his story this helped heal the guilt, which he rarely spoke of.
He joined the South Jordan Historical Committee to preserve the history of the city he was born, raised, and eventually died in. While serving on the Committee he was able to get a veteran monument in place at the South Jordan Cemetery, which he designed with a written explanation behind the design, which is still on display today. It gave him great joy to see this finished again healing his heart to honor and remember soldiers he served with and who continue to serve. It was important for him when people visit this monument it was a place to find peace and heal.
In November 2017, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. My dad’s military training came into play as he bravely fought the good fight. He marched to chemo when he didn’t feel like going, he followed every order that was given, and he didn’t cry. On a familiar fall day I went over to visit my dad, mom and brother. My mom was exhausted, needed fresh air and to eat so my brother took her out to lunch while I stayed with my dad. At this point he was slow to respond but resting well. As my mom and brother left my dad became restless and I reassured him I was sitting right beside him and he was not alone. He became more restless and was trying to get up. I inquired if he was uncomfortable or hurting. He opened his eyes and looked me straight in the eyes and said “Lissa, I must march.” I tried explaining I was the only one home and didn’t feel he had the strength to march; he abruptly interrupted me saying “Lissa, I MUST march,“ his voice softened and finished, “I must march to get all the men out of the trenches.” As I gently helped my frail dad up he put his hands on my shoulders with his head held high and briefly marched in placed until he felt all the men were out of the trenches. I gently helped back to bed and he passed shortly after while surrounded by his family. Dad, I honor you.
We honor you, Joey Clegg.