APPLING, Ga. (WJBF) – “That’s my Screaming Eagles 100st Airborne hat,” David Clem says proudly as he shows a visitor to his home part of his vast collection of decades of military memorablia.

It’s a list of memories that lasts more than one lifetime.

“My father was 30 years in the Army. My uncle was killed in Europe in World War II,” Clem said.

A McCormick native, David Clem spent more than a decade in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam helping intercept North Vietnamese radio traffic.

“I went over there the first time in January of 1965,” Clem said. “I was with the Army Security Agency at that time. It was a super secret thing at the time. Nobody was supposed to know that the Army Security Agency was there. Somebody would be talking to support, or asking for air support or something, and all of a sudden, zeep, gone. It was a pretty harrowing experience.”

“He’s always got some good stories and I can’t even imagine what he just sat here and told you,” said Steve Wall, Clem’s Son-In-Law. “That was his life, that’s what he did. That was his growing up, that was his childhood. Man, I’ve got so much respect for anyone that’s in the military, but that particular time, that particular part of the world at the time, it was just something I can’t even imagine.”

Clem, who has called Appling home for years, continued a proud family tradition.

“My uncle was killed in World War II. We had pictures of him and all,” Clem said. “I had two other uncles that were in the Navy during World War II. My Great-Grandfather was a Civil War soldier, he and his two brothers were both in the Civil War.”

This past Veterans Day, David Clem’s service came full circle, when he made the trip to our nation’s capitol and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“Tears come to your eyes,” he said. “I found five of my friends that were killed over there.”

And then in November of 2022, Clem received the WJBF Salute To Service Award, presented to him by WJBF Director of Community Involvement Emily Pannocchia.

“Thank you, ma’am. That’s so sweet of you,” Clem said upon receiving the award.

“David is probably the most hospitable guy I’ve ever met,” said Wall. I don’t think it would bother him if you told him there were going to be 300 people this year for Thanksgiving I don’t that would faze him. It would just be, again, ‘Make it work’. I know his experiences of the past have to got to what forms that.”

“I’m very patriotic and I believe in serving,” said Clem. “I think it’s a nice thing, totally unexpected, but a nice surprise.”

And that family tradition may continue. Mr. Clem’s grandson is considering joining the military. If you would like to nominate someone for our Salute To Service, click here.