Pearl Harbor Changed the Life of McAllen Veteran Couple

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MCALLEN – Etched on the walls of the World War II memorial in McAllen are the details of what happened Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.

A Rio Grande Valley husband and wife both served in the Navy during the war. They remember the attack well.

"They told us at lunch they had bombed Pearl Harbor," recalled WWII veteran James Clepper. "From then on it was a totally different ball game."

An estimated 2,403 Americans died during the attack. Bombs fell from the sky and the ricochet of those explosions rocked an entire generation.

"We were shocked and surprised," said James Clepper. He and his wife, Margaret, who is also a veteran, heard the news 76 years ago today.

"We were ready to fight, I tell you. The nation was all out. Everything went on. Gas rationing, everything. The whole nation was total, totally committed. It’s not like it is today," said Clepper.

The attack launched the husband and wife into the service. That's where they met. James from Texas, Margaret from Nebraska, they both joined the Navy. James was an officer from 1943 to 1946.

He told us, "I was actually on active duty about 3 years."

Margaret Clepper paved the way for female veterans today.

"Man’s work, they couldn’t hire help," she said as she recalled the days on the farm, "milking all those cows. Doing all that stuff."

At 20, she became a Women’s Auxiliary Volunteer Service member or WAVE. Her service immortalized in a statue at the Veteran’s Memorial.

Her husband told us the uniform on the WAVE statue was actually based on his wife’s uniform. Their names are engraved into the stones at the statue's feet.

"He didn’t know what the buttons looked like or anything," he told us about the sculptor's work, "so her uniform was the model for that thing."

The veteran couple, each in their 90's, remembers those days with concern for the future.

"I don’t know... I’m afraid things are going to get bad," said James, "I hope they don’t."

They remember the war. How they lost acquaintances. How they found each other.

"The main thing the Navy did is find me is help me find the best wife that's ever walked the vast Earth," he told us. They hope to never see something like Pearl Harbor again.

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