By Mark Hendricks (Hillviews, 2011)
Glen Cleckler ’50 and his wife JoAnn ’52 sit at the base of the Iwo Jima statue in Harlingen. One of the Marines depicted in the statue is Harlon Block, Glen’s friend who died on the island in 1945.
From time to time, Glen Cleckler, 87, still visits his dear friend Harlon Block. He stands respectfully beside his gravesite. He may speak to him quietly, with a trace of a smile on his face, about the perils of growing old. But, for the most part, Cleckler uses these visits to remember.
And on this sweltering summer afternoon on the campus of the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, it is no different. Cleckler looks down upon his old friend’s resting place and remembers. The memories come easily, perhaps because they comprise a story that is so impossible to forget. The two were best friends in high school in the Rio Grande Valley town of Weslaco. They were young, handsome, athletic, and popular – teammates on a conference champion Weslaco High football team. Both seemed destined to play college ball. Cleckler, in fact, had a scholarship offer to Howard Payne.
But one afternoon in the fall of their senior year of high school (1942-43), Block had a mischievous idea. It was an idea that would tip the first domino and start a sequence of events with consequences both tragic and heroic.
The child of a Marine Corps officer, Mark grew up on the move. A barefoot childhood on the beaches of Oahu, coming of age in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mark made his way through five universities before settling in as a Texas State University Bobcat. He was a news, crime and sports reporter as well as news editor for the Laredo News, and served time at the San Marcos Daily Record. After a decade or so in the newspaper business, he went into higher education communications, and has spent almost a quarter-century back at Texas State, where he is now the Director of the University News Service.