Clarence Brumley Sprouse, a real-life American hero, passed away on August 14, 2018 after 93 years of adventure and achievement that took him far away from the coal mines of his native West Virginia. Clarence's father was a coal miner by day and a preacher by night. All of Clarence's brothers worked in the mines and one brother died down there. Despite the dangers, Clarence loved the cool temperature deep in the mines and the pay was good, especially for a 14-year-old.
When WWII broke out, Clarence was determined to fight for his country, so although he was underage, he had a friend forge his parents' permission and he enlisted in the Army and became part of the 188th Airborne Infantry. He shipped out to the Pacific and led a rifle platoon through the steaming, malaria-infested jungles of Leyte and Luzon. He told vivid stories about the fighting spirit of the Japanese defenders who would rather die than surrender. Night after night, Japanese soldiers attacked American lines, screaming "Banzai" and waving their swords in suicidal assaults.
After the war, Clarence returned to the mines of West Virginia but the work was sporadic, so he enrolled in school where he met a beautiful 18-year-old girl, Charlotte Emmogene Lilly, and after a whirlwind courtship, they crossed the state line into Kentucky and got married. Emmogene was the love of his life and was a vital part of the success and accolades Clarence received during his military career. In 2006, after nearly 60 years of marriage, Emmogene died unexpectedly in her sleep and her death left a void that could never be filled.
Clarence reenlisted in the Army in 1949 with the 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and was sent to North Korea, shortly before the Chinese divisions crossed the Yalu River and caught the American and UN forces completely by surprise. Clarence led his rifle platoon through enemy lines, fighting every step of the way, until they finally reached the American positions. For his intrepid and inspiring leadership under the most adverse conditions, Clarence was awarded the first of his two Silver Stars and was given a battlefield commission.
Success followed success and Clarence became the Sergeant Major of the 187th Airborne, then the Sergeant Major of the 82nd Airborne. He completed the 7th Army's NCO Academy with a perfect score, something that had never been done before and that could never be surpassed.
In 1961, Clarence was handpicked by the CIA to train the 1400 Cuban expatriates who intended to invade Cuba and topple Castro's communist government. Clarence accepted the challenge and relocated to Guatemala to begin the task of moulding doctors, lawyers, teachers and other non-military types into soldiers capable performing under combat conditions. Clarence admired the courage and tenacity of these brave men who were willing to sacrifice everything to overthrow Castro. For years afterwards, the American Cuban community honoured Clarence for all he did to help in their valiant but unsuccessful invasion.
In the mid-1960s, Clarence was offered the newly created position of Sergeant Major of the Army's Enlisted Personnel Directorate, which made Clarence the highest ranking NCO in the Army. The war in Vietnam was in expanding and Clarence did not want to miss the action, so he traded his high ranking staff job to become the Command Sergeant Major of the 1st Infantry Division (the "Big Red One") in Vietnam.
While is Vietnam, Clarence earned his second Silver Star and was again given a battlefield commission as an officer. For several months, Clarence relinquished his command in order to lead a rifle company in the field. Clarence was awarded the Triple Combat Infantry Badge, an award restricted to Army enlisted soldiers who fought in ground combat in three different wars. Clarence's wars were WWII, Korea and Vietnam. There are very few soldiers who can claim this coveted award and Clarence was very proud to be one of them.
Major General William DePuy, Commander of the Big Red One while Clarence was in Vietnam, called Clarence "the perfect soldier" and the bravest man he ever met. General DePuy asked Clarence to help develop the jungle warfare curriculum that is
still taught at the Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Clarence finished his military career at Ft. Sam Houston and when he retired, he was the most highly decorated individual in the 5th Army with over 80 decorations. Following retirement, Clarence purchased the Dunkin'Donuts franchise for San Antonio and over the next 25 years expanded the business from one location to thirteen by the time he retired from his second career.
Clarence is survived by three children: Sharon Gail Joyce, Kimberly Ann Zoeller and Kelly Vaughn Sprouse and four grandchildren: Andy Sprouse, Andy Joyce, Zoe Zoeller and Masha Sprouse and one great grandchild: Violet Joyce. Clarence was proud of each one of them and loved them deeply.
Clarence's 93 years were filled with adventure and success but through it all, he remained modest and good humoured about all that he had accomplished. His intelligence, loyalty and bold courage in the face of every challenge left an indelible mark on all who knew him and loved him and those who were fortunate enough to call him a friend.
Clarence will be interred at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery on Wedsday, October 10, 2018, at 11am with Full Military Honors. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any memorials be sent to the giver's charity of choice .
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery