CONYERS — Life changed forever for Tommy Clack in May 1969 when, as a young Army captain, he was wounded in Vietnam, costing him three limbs and damaging his hearing.
Since that time, Clack has transitioned from service to his country in the military to the service of his community and many organizations. On Tuesday, Clack’s commitment to others was recognized when he was named recipient of the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Lifetime Achievement Award, given by the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce.
Outgoing Chamber Chairman Dee Barnes presented the award, calling Clack a “true hero who has taken a life-altering event and blessed others over and over again. We couldn’t be more pleased to honor him with the 2017 A.R. ‘Gus’ Barksdale Lifetime Achievement Award.” Barnes quoted two of Clack’s favorite sayings: first, “Freedom isn’t free,” and second, “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you — Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul and the other died for your freedom.”
In accepting the award, Clack said he did not feel worthy of the honor, but would accept it on behalf of the board of directors of the Walk of Heroes Memorial, where he serves as president and chairman of the board.
Clack said he believes people volunteer more than they may realize and closed with a quote from an essay on volunteerism by John Ruskin: “The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets by it but what he becomes by it.”
Clack’s resume of volunteerism is long. For more than 40 years he traveled as a public speaker, making more than 100 speeches a year. He is an active member of the American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Hearts and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He volunteers on the state and national levels in support of POW/MIA issues, and has served as state president of the Georgia Veterans Leadership Program since 1983. He regularly coordinates statewide events to honor veterans as well as current members of the military.
His list of accolades is equally long. Clack served as grand marshal in the 1970 Atlanta July Fourth Parade, and received the 1981 Georgia United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Outstanding Vietnam Veteran award, the 1983 National AMVET’s Silver Helmet Award, the 1987 Georgia State Outstanding Alumni award, the 1989 Freedom Foundation’s George Washington Honor Medal for Citizenship, the 1989 National Disabled American Veteran’s Most Outstanding Disabled American Veteran award, the 1990 National Daughters of the American Revolution Most Outstanding Veteran in America award, the 2001 President George H.W. Bush Point of Light award, the 2001 Atlanta Braves and Office Depot Community Service Award, and was named the 2013 Georgia Military Veteran’s Hall of Fame inductee for service, among others.