Good Man George
Of the nearly 400 thousand people serving in the U.S. Navy only two are named George William Clark III. And they both are serving onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
Cmdr. George William Clark III, son of a North Carolina farmer, and Chief Yeoman George William Clark III, an air force brat, only knew each other as “the other George W. Clark” for almost 12 years.
“I’ve been tracking Cdr. Clark since 2004,” said Chief Clark.
While stationed at the Pentagon, Chief Clark started receiving emails for Cdr. Clark who was stationed at Scott Air Force Base.
“I knew our names had to be similar, so I went into the global and typed my name in and saw that there’s another George W. Clark. At that time he had to be like a J.G. or Lieutenant,” said Chief Clark. So he began forwarding the misguided emails to his name double.
The two Clarks would travel the world over their careers, but it wouldn’t be until Bonhomme Richard that they finally cross paths.
Cdr. Clark is from Wadesboro, North Carolina.
“I came in as an electronics technician in 1994, and then went to supply corps school in 1996,”said Cdr. Clark, “I chose the Navy because I met a guy who was a Boatswain’s Mate who had really funny stories about being at sea. So I went down to the recruiter and signed up,” said Clark.
“There are a lot of Clarks where I’m from. There’s even a mountain called Clark Mountain where a lot of my family lived over the past couple hundred years,” said Cdr. Clark.
Cdr. Clark’s grandfather and father attended the same schools, worked in the same peach orchard, and in the same cotton mill he did while growing up.
After high school, however, Cdr. Clark started carving his own path; he attended the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and graduated in 1993. He moved to France, but after about 10 months of scraping by, the appeal of being abroad was ending.
“I realized I was pretty lucky to have been born in America, I wanted to give something back and I wanted to travel and by joining the military it would be a good way to do both of those things,” said Cdr. Clark.
Five hundred miles southwest in Montgomery, Alabama and six years later, Chief Clark was starting his Navy career for a very different reason.
His mother and father served in the U.S. Air Force and as a child he moved every four years. In turn, he was determined to stay in one place, until his circumstances changed.\
“I joined the Navy in 2000, because I was having a daughter and I wanted to provide a better life for her. Something stable, and secure, and something she could be proud of,” said Clark.
He said he’ll never forget selecting his rating while at boot camp.
“I walked into YN2 Wilson’s office and he had ESPN on the TV. It was hot as hell that day and Wilson was drinking lemonade. I said, ‘woaw, what is your job?’ He said, ‘I’m a Yeoman,’ that’s when I knew…I need to be yeoman!” said Chief Clark.
After 15 years, Chief Clark says he still loves the Navy, and preaches to all his junior Sailors, “It doesn’t matter where you come from you can be successful here.”
These two southern boys thought the name sameness ended at George W. Clark. It wasn’t until Chief Clark was processing a personnel tracker he realized their names were identical down to the number.
“I see my name coming across as an O-5, and I thought, ‘oh man, my pay is going to be all jacked up!’ My wife is going to see it…and start spending all this money,” laughed Chief Clark.
“I found at the bank,” said Cdr. Clark, “because (Chief Clark’s) wife works at the community bank in Sasebo. I walked in to do some sort of transaction, all the action behind the counter stopped and she said, ‘you’re the guy!’”
So is there any George William Clark IVs in the Navy’s future?
According to Chief Clark, if he has a son the family tradition will assuredly continue, and Cdr. Clark has one son and he named him, Henry.
As for e-mail mix-ups onboard the ship it has been fairly low at about two a week.
These two different shipmates, from different backgrounds, now share more than just a name; they share a ship. And bring their combined 35 years of naval experience to the Bonhomme Richard team.