The McClellans: Miracle for a Marine
By Gorman Woodfin
The 700 Club
Like so many mothers before her, Connie McClellan faced the uncertainty of war when her son John signed up to serve in the United States Marine Corps.
“When he left on that bus from the recruiter’s office, on that day when he went off to boot camp - that was tough,” Connie said. “It was intense pride, but also some trepidation. However, again, I had that comfort that no matter what happened, he would be okay.”
Since then, the 23-year-old lance corporal has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq – and he has the medals to prove it. Since going to war, he’s received three purple hearts. The first came while he served in Afghanistan. Connie remembers it well.
“Our communication of choice was instant messaging and so we were on the computer,” Connie said.
She said their messaging went something like this:
John: Hi Mom.
Connie: Hi John. How’s it going?
John: Oh it’s going good. How’s it going with you?
Connie: Oh, it’s good.
John: Now don’t freak out, but I got my first purple heart today.
Connie: Oh my gosh! Are you OK?
John: A bullet ricocheted off the turret and it grazed my wrist.
Connie: It just grazed your wrist?
John: Yeah, it just grazed my wrist.
Connie: You’re OK?
“Well, a couple days later I got another e-mail from him and come to find out it had imbedded in his wrist,” Connie said. “So they had to do surgery to take that out.”
John soon returned to duty. Three days later he was shot again.
“Well, we were in a firefight again and this time the bullet went in my right arm and out the back,” John messaged.
“And I am freaking out,” Connie said. “I’m like, ‘Tell me about your arm. What’s going on? Tell me about your arm.’ He’s like, ‘I’m fine. I’m fine, Mom, I’m fine.’ And at this point, I don’t think he’s being truthful with me. I think he’s just trying to downplay it. But it did. It went in and out of his arm and didn’t hit, didn’t hurt anything.”
Fellow soldiers nicknamed him “Lucky.” Within two weeks, John was back in the turret - this time in Iraq.
“We got a phone call at 12:15 at night. My husband and I were sleeping and I answered the phone. At that point, I’m very excited because I’m thinking it’s John,” Connie said. “Very quickly into the conversation I realized that it was not John; it was a doctor in the hospital in Balad, informing us that John had just sustained an extremely grave injury. He had just endured five hours of surgery. He had been shot through the head by a sniper. The bullet went in here and out the back of his head. And his words to us were, ‘If he survives the brain swelling, which is our first immediate concern, he will not be the same and more than likely be in a vegetative state.’”
The doctor told Connie her son had a 95 percent chance he would not make it.
“We were really in a state of shock. And in retrospect, I don’t even know how we made it through the night,” Connie said.
She started e-mailing everyone she knew, asking them to pray for her son.
“I sent out the e-mail to them, told them what had happened, led them in prayer that God would heal John,” she said. “First that he would allow him to live, and then that he would heal him.”
People all over the world prayed and the next day Connie received amazing news.
“Twenty-four hours to the minute after the first phone call, the doctor called back and he indicated that John had done a 180 and that his condition was amazing,” Connie said. “He was still unconscious, but they had given him all these tests and he was testing positively.”
Even though John beat the odds, he still faced an uphill battle. He had lost the ability to control most of his bodily functions. He was transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital.
Connie filled her email prayer chain daily with very specific requests.
“When they took out that breathing tube, he could only speak with one vocal cord. So that was another prayer that we sent out asking God to heal that. And 45 days later it was healed,” she said. “He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t use his left arm. There were so many really, really critical needs that he had. And we would send out those prayer requests for those needs and either that day or that week or that month, and sometimes even that next year, we would get the answers to those prayers.”
Connie’s small email prayer army grew from 80 people to 350. And over the course of the coming months, she sent out hundreds of emails.
“The doctors would come in and this would be the report and it would just be like, ‘Ohhhh, praise the Lord!’ And I’d have to share with everybody,” Connie said. “And, oh my goodness, the response I was getting from people - they just were so uplifted and encouraged by what was going on, knowing that we sent out this prayer and we got the answer to it. It just was such an encouragement to everybody who was plugged into this story.”
“Well, I like to do all that physical kind of stuff. That’s what I used to like to do before,” John said. “When I first woke up in the hospital that was my biggest fear - I wasn’t going to be able to do any of that kind of stuff anymore. So now that I can do it, I just do it as often as I can.”
John’s goal is clear.
“I want to try and go to college,” he said. “My brain’s still recovering, so I’ve got memory issues that I’m dealing with; but I think going to school’s going to help me out. And, you know, having a degree wouldn’t hurt either.”
Connie has even developed a website so people can see a detailed account of her son’s incredible healing. John says the prayers of the people have affected his life.
“It makes me feel loved, one. And two, the prayers definitely paid off,” John said. “I don’t think I would have made it this far if all those prayers didn’t work.”
“It was prayer, in my opinion, that saved him the first injury,” Connie said. “Saved him the second injury and it certainly saved him the third injury. But it also enabled him to recover to the extent that he has from that injury. And it was all one prayer at a time. We sent out one prayer at a time and one answer at a time would come through. I look at him. I talk to him. I listen to him. I just am so in awe of what God has done for this young man. Considering what the injury was, I just - every day, I’m in awe.”
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