Hometown hero: Army vets still helps others in Sumter

Phyllis Clark, an Army veteran, volunteers as a clerk at her church and for the Sumter Combat Veterans group.
Phyllis Clark, an Army veteran, volunteers as a clerk at her church and for the Sumter Combat Veterans group.

Phyllis Clark grew up in Lynchburg and is a 1972 graduate of Mount Pleasant High School in Elliot. With an older brother and a cousin in the military, she decided that was what she wanted to do.

She joined the Army in March 1974, completing her basic training at Fort Jackson before serving in Germany as a clerk typist for an inspector general in Schw bisch Gm nd, Germany, just outside of Stuttgart.

"It was fun, but it was a lot of work," Clark said.

Often, the job required making reports on criminal investigations.

"It was just too gruesome to talk about," she said of some things she typed into reports.

A lot was going on, she said, and she often accompanied the inspector general in a helicopter as he investigated incidents off base.

"It was a great experience going to the different sites, meeting a lot of people from different countries," Clark said.

After returning from Germany, Clark said she worked at Dorn Veterans Clinic in Columbia, commuting from Sumter before getting a position at the hospital at Shaw Air Force Base.

"Today, they call it a clinic, but it was a hospital then," she said.

She has been married to James Clark for 45 years, and she has an adult daughter, Philene Colclough, and an adult step-daughter, Tanya Williams. She also has four grandchildren, who she admits she dotes on.

Phyllis Clark has worked several jobs during her career, including as a bus driver for the Rural Transit Authority for five years.

"My main route was from Mayesville coming into Sumter," she said. "Picking up the people that were going to the rehabilitation place on Highway 15 and at the disability school."

Her last job before retiring was as a cook in Sumter School District 17 and 2.

Retirement hasn't slowed down the soft-spoken grandmother.

She is secretary and clerk for Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Lynchburg, she said.

"I am a very church-going person," Clark explained.

She also uses her talents as secretary of the Sumter South Carolina Combat Veterans Group.

"She keeps up with the minutes and the paperwork," said Ray Johnson, commander of the the group. "We have a very busy group, and she takes notes and makes sure we have got things."

She is dedicated and hardworking and does much more than just secretarial work, he said.

"All the events we have here, our balls, our family get togethers, she's definitely involved with that," Johnson said. "She goes the extra mile and, should I say, is an outstanding soldier. We think a lot of her."

Clark said she still retains much that she learned in the military.

"I learned how to be disciplined, polite, caring about others and putting them first, knowing how to treat people," she said.

She said she also learned exercise and keeping fit.

"I," she said, "miss the cadence."