Martha Clark never had the chance to meet her second cousin Bryan Earle, a victim of the 1983 terrorist attack on the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, but on April 3 she’ll have the chance to play basketball in his honor.
The all-star basketball event is an official fundraiser for The Wounded Warrior Project and each of the four teams will wear camouflaged uniforms representing one branch of the Armed Forces.
“I have the upmost respect for all our military men and women,” Clark said. “To be given the opportunity to play in a fundraiser for The Wounded Warrior Project is very humbling to me.”
Earle and Clark’s father, John Clark, were born six days apart and grew up not only as cousins, but best friends.
In fact, they dreamed of seeing the world together.
"Bryan and I had always had the plan to join the military together because we wanted to travel, but I backed out,” John Clark said. “He was a nice guy. He never went looking for trouble but was never afraid to stand up for what was right. He was truly one of my best friends.”
Earle was killed on Oct. 23, 1983 alongside 240 other United States service men and women when two truck bombs were detonated near their barracks.
Navy Corpsman Bryan L. Earle was 21.
For Martha Clark, representing the Army All-Stars in the Senior Shootout is one way for her to honor her cousin’s sacrifice as well as the military service of several other family members.
She’s also looking forward to competing with some of her fiercest opponents over the years.
“I feel honored to have been chosen to play with some of the area’s best players,” she said. “I am excited to finally be teammates with some of the girls who have been my opponents for many years.”
What she isn’t looking forward to is the final buzzer, which will close out her competitive basketball career.
“It’s really upsetting to me when I think about it,” she said. “However, because I have been busy with my school softball team, it has not completely hit me that my basketball career has come to end.”
That’s a career that nearly never began.
Clark’s mother, Marcy, had other plans for her daughter.
“My mom signed me up for a dance class,” Clark said. “My first day there, I told my mom, ‘This is stupid,’ and I didn't want to be a dancer, so my dad had me signed up for rec basketball with our local recreation organization.”
On the court, Clark found what she was looking for.
“What kept me involved with basketball was my teammates and friendships I made,” she said. “Basketball always brought a different type of competition to my life that I loved. I have always loved the aggressive play and the feeling after you make a big play for your team. I kept playing basketball because it was one of the best things that has ever come into my life.”
After April 3, Clark’s competitive days will come to an end but she’ll never forget the journey.
“What I am going to remember most about my career is not the games or practices, however, I'm pretty sure I will always remember the one, ‘snow day,’ practice that will haunt our team forever,” she said. “All joking aside, I will remember the friends that I have made. I met two of my best friends (Reannan Blackmore and Carli Illig) when we were on a fourth grade travel team together. Playing with them one last time is what I will remember the most. Also, I have built a strong relationship with both of my coaches, Brindi (Kandel) and Ali (Tobias). I will remember them as my role models and the type of person I strive to be. I will remember team dinners with my teammates, dancing to Pitch Perfect, Just Dance competitions and all the laughs we have shared.”
Aside from creating more memories, Clark has one other goal for the Senior Shootout.
“To have fun and to hit my first high school career 3-pointer.”
The Senior Shootout begins at 5:00 p.m. with the boys’ all-star game. The girls will follow at 7:00 p.m. Click here to purchase presale tickets, which provide admission to both games.