Sergeant Robert Clark Jr. of Bridge City returned safely home from Afghanistan on Friday night to honors and cheers.

Sgt. Clark, a 2003 graduate of Bridge City High School, has faithfully served his country as a Marine for six years. He is a part of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines troop. He has successfully completed three tours of duty: a nine-month trip and a seven-month trip to Iraq and a seven-month trip to Afghanistan.

Among those anxiously awaiting his return were his family, friends, and a first-grade class of Orangefield Elementary students who had “adopted” him.

The young Marine’s father, Rob Clark Sr., gave a big party for him in Bridge City on Saturday where he was able to relax and visit with his family and friends.

Both Sgt. Clark’s father and his mother, Sherry Buchannan of Georgia, served as Marines. Also, many other of Sgt. Clark’s immediate family have served their country. Clark’s father, a 1982 graduate of Bridge City High School, expressed how very proud he was of his son’s selfless sacrifices and outstanding accomplishments. Having himself served as a Marine from 1982-1986, he knows how important leave time is to a young man. He wanted to do everything he could to make this time memorable.

Sgt. Clark heard the news of Osama bin Laden’s death shortly after he arrived in the United States. When asked how he reacted, he said, “They told us at morning formation. Everyone was pretty happy about it.”

The leader has recently re-enlisted. When asked if he planned to make a career of military service, he replied “I don’t know yet. I’m still debating that one. It all depends on what happens.”

Stephanie Neely’s first grade class, who had adopted Sgt. Clark some time ago and honored him with letters and drawings and food, invited him to share his story with them on Tuesday afternoon at Orangefield Elementary.

The group of children stared at the “real soldier” in awe as he told them about his day to day activities. He told them about the good and the bad. Then he opened the floor for questions.

“Do you drive a tank?” they asked. “Do you have a grenade launcher?” ”How often do you get to take a shower?” “What do you eat?” “Have you ever got hurt?” “How many badges can you get?” “Does a bazooka really kick?” There was no shortage of questions.
“Have you ever been yelled at?” they asked. Sgt. Clark smiled. “Occasionally.” “Did you fight in the Civil War?” Sgt. Clark laughed. “No,” he said.

Sgt. Clark explained his important job to the class. “The way it works, you have a group of marines. They’ll go out on patrol in the city looking for the Tali Ban. When they’re out there, they have to be able to talk back to base. I’m the guy with the big radio on my back and I’m the one that talks back to the base and lets them know what’s going on.”

“Do the good guys like you sometimes die?” One boy asked, bracing himself for the answer.

Sgt. Clark has lost 25 of his comrades and seen nearly 200 injuries. But he kept his answer simple and truthful. “Sometimes they do,” he said.

Then, the children sat at a table and read their books for Sgt. Clark. He listened to them showing off their new abilities. Others drew him pictures of themselves.

Sgt. Robert Clark Jr. is one of many local men and women who have sacrificed greatly and unconditionally for the cause of freedom and security. We salute Clark, as well as we do all of our troops, for his service. Welcome home!