Faith Under Pressure:A Marine’s Story of Miraculous Survival

River View Observer -New Book Pick for December

“A  book All Americans Should be Reading.” -River View Observer

While most of us sleep, they stand guard. While we drive to work, they search for roadside IED’s. While we raid the fridge for snacks, they hunt for terrorists. “They” are U.S. soldiers and Marines. The Department of Defense reports that nearly 4,800 American troops have been killed and more than 33,000 have been wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq since both operations started in 2001 and 2003 respectively. For many Americans, the casualties evoke a sense of fleeting sadness that often fades by the end of the evening news. But for the families of our troops, anxiety and fear are constant companions.


Connie McClellan is an intimate acquaintance of heart-stopping fear. She’s received alarming news three times since her son, Marine Lance Corporal John McClellan, deployed overseas. The first two messages came just days apart. Her son was shot two times—in the same arm—in a one week period while serving as a machine gunner in Afghanistan.

He wasn’t seriously injured in either incident. But on September 11, 2006 he deployed to Iraq. And his luck appeared to take a turn…for the worse.

“Our phone rang just after midnight and I expected John on the other end,” says McClellan. “But it was a doctor from the hospital in Balad, Iraq. John had been shot through the head. I could feel the blood drain from my face as he told me if John survived the brain swelling, he would probably be a vegetable.”

McClellan, author of the new book, My Miracle Marine (Divine Word Publishing, was devastated. She immediately turned to her own “troops” for support. She went to her computer and wrote an email explaining that an enemy sniper’s bullet had pierced her 20-year-old son’s skull, forcing doctors to remove bone fragments and damaged brain tissue.

“I asked them to pray for a miracle,” says McClellan. “I also asked them very specifically to pray for God to heal John and make him whole in every way; physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I sent that email to everyone in my address book.”

The next day brought encouraging news. John’s brain swelling was kept to a minimum. He had cleared the first fallen log so to speak, but he was still so very far from being out of the woods.

Within days, John was airlifted to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center. “At this point, he’d already defied the odds, simply by surviving,” says McClellan. “But his doctors didn’t know if he’d be able to breathe on his own, or use his vocal cords. He faced over twenty-four serious and potentially debilitating problems.  So I kept emailing updates and continued leading my online group in detailed prayers.”

During John’s 26 days at Bethesda, he made dramatic improvements. His mom made extraordinary progress too. Her emails circled the globe while she made the rounds at the hospital.

“Many people don’t realize how quickly families bond while sharing the ICU Waiting Room,” says McClellan. “Our victories and setbacks became a shared experience. I included prayer requests for other patients in my emails. And it worked! When medical options hit a wall, we witnessed miracles.”

John went on to spend 27 days at the James A. Haley V.A. Hospital in Tampa, Florida where he learned to walk again. For a Marine whose prognosis looked utterly grim, John’s recovery is miraculous. But his mother isn’t exactly surprised.

“While John battled his injuries, I never lost faith; I never doubted,” says McClellan. “The message is that all things are possible with God. There’s hope for everyone no matter what they’re going through.”

McClellan hopes her family’s story provides encouragement for troops’ families and for anyone else who’s struggling; especially when the sadness isn’t fleeting.

About Connie McClellan

Connie McClellan and her husband Carl have been married for 28 years. They have both been insurance agents for more than 30 years and by all accounts, had lived a fairly ‘normal’ life until a sniper’s bullet changed their lives forever. Since publishing “My Miracle Marine”, McClellan and her son John have been interviewed for a variety of television and radio programs including the Laura Ingraham Radio Show.

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