Late in the afternoon of Friday December 14, 1979, June’s husband found himself on a NATO shuttle bus with 2 other engineers (Elmer Cooper and Robert French) and an active duty Army sergeant, making the routine journey from the munitions depot to their quarters in Florya, a suburb of Instanbul, Turkey. When the shuttle came to a stop in front of their residence, the four men began to disembark, moving to the rear to unload personal property they had placed there earlier. Suddenly, from across the street – and from a car that came screeching to a stop behind the van – emerged a group of terrorists brandishing AK47’s, led by a woman referred to as “the Scorpion.” One bullet passed through the back side of Jim Clark’s skull, killing him instantly as he attempted to duck behind the van – whereas the 2 other engineers lived on for an unspecified amount of time after the attack and died in local hospitals. Master Sergeant James Smith, Jr. managed to flee into a nearby drainage ravine – where pursuing terrorists caught up with him and shot him several times as he raised his arms in the air and attempted to surrender. A Turkish police officer later placed Smith’s body in the back of a pickup truck and drove it to the Cakmakli NATO installation, whereas the body of June’s husband lay in the street covered with a white sheet until local authorities took it to a Turkish morgue. Returning Jim Clark’s body to the United States for burial proved very difficult, but eventually successful through the intercession of Representative Jim Wright and President Jimmy Carter. A fellow resident of the quarters where they lived fired down on the terrorists with a shotgun from an upstairs window, wounding at least one of them. Erroneous reports of the time that have survived to this date in some renditions, stating that they were lined up and shot with their hands on their heads, are untrue – since all four of the Americans attempted to escape. The Turkish van driver lived through the event, although he sustained serious wounds that severely threatened his life. On the other side of the world, Christmas presents remained unopened under a family Christmas tree heavily weighted and bowed by a dark, intense, indescribable grief.
With her soul mate’s Air Force flying wings pinned proudly to the lapel of her blue suit, over 2 weeks later June Clark stood to receive the ceremonial flag that had draped the coffin of her martyred husband – from a full military honor guard, complete with a three-volley salute. News reporters spoke into whirring and inquisitive cameras, communicating the last vestiges of Jim Clark’s life to an American public profoundly affronted by the Iranian Hostage Crisis – but June’s memories of the events were heavily stifled by severe emotional trauma that required the immediate help of psychotropic medication. However, the benefits of giving birth to 8 children came rebounding back to her, as each of them rallied around their mother (and each other) to find a way through the darkness that had suddenly enveloped them, sending their lives ricocheting off in previously unforeseen directions. This struggle to overcome grief compounded and became a mountain even more difficult to climb when her second daughter finally capitulated to the aftereffects of spinal meningitis and passed away in November of 1983 at the age of 24. The sorrow June felt ran very deep, but she was able to traverse the depth of that abyss in a courageous effort that involved her love for children, an intensified dedication to academic pursuits, and her own God-given talents in art. Famous writers have often referred to a woman’s invincible spirit, but a rarity of females have actually shown the courage and internal strength to persevere as June Clark did in the years following the death of her husband, son and daughter.
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