Local American Legion member receives 60-year pin.
At 86 years of age, Clyde Priest is happy to still be puttering around.
“I just praise the Lord for each day,” he said.
Priest realizes he isn’t supposed to be still up and going.
“I’m a miracle standing here. Seven years ago I came down with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis). They said I’d be in a wheelchair, but the Lord has touched me,” he said with a smile.
Priest was touched again Wednesday morning when he was honored for 60 years of American Legion membership.
“He’s been proud to be a member of the Legion all these years and he has contributed. He’s not just talker, he’s a walker,” said the Rev. Ronn Pashia, commander Emmette J. Shields American Legion Post 55. “Clyde is a man that has a fervor in his heart, first of all for his God, second of all for his family and community, and thirdly for his nation.”
Priest is just one of a handful of local Legion members to have received a 60-year pin.
“All these vets I admire so much,” said Jess Ornelas, Post 55 historian.
When Priest was last honored by the Legion, it was his 11-year-old granddaughter who attached the pin to his shirt.
“She’s now 21 and at Kirksville in college,” he said with pride.
Although it’s been over 60 years since his discharge from the U.S. Army, Priest still looks back with pride on his time in the service.
“It was quite an experience,” he said. “I served the whole thing with the 45th Infantry Division with the 45th National Guard of Oklahoma. They were a great group of guys. They were just as green as I was.”
Priest was initially drafted in 1944, but was given a six-month deferment because he was in agriculture. The draft touched his life again in 1948.
“Because I was in business they put me in 4-F, but then in 1950 I got married, joined church and went into the Army with a blind eye. They kept telling me I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I was,” he said.
Priest wound up in Korea where his unit wound up involved in three major battles involving the Chinese. It was while stationed in Korea that Priest came to realize someone was looking out for him.
“I realized at that particular time that the Lord protected me. On T-bone Hill I shot a phosphorus grenade up one night about midnight because I thought I heard the Chinese down in the valley, but it was the rustle of the wind,” he recalls. “I cried out, ‘Lord get me back home safely to my wife and my baby.’ I said, ‘I’ll serve you.’ Eight years later I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Priest has lived out his promise to “serve” in part through his participation in the Gideons organization, which distributes Bibles in numerous languages around the world.
“This man has been dedicated to the Gideons and its service for years and years and years,” said Pashia.
In addition to touching lives through the Gideons, which he joined in 1967, Priest also reached many local homes through his profession.
“For 70 years I was a milk man. I owned my own route,” he said, estimating he delivered to 576 homes and 22 businesses. “I put eight dairies out of business in 70 years that I bought from.”