When he enlisted in the United States Navy, my grandpa, Harold was just a fresh-faced kid. Barely able to vote, he signed up to risk all he had for a country he loved.
(Harold Barr, 18 years old, 1943)
Having completed Boot Camp, he trained in Basic Engineering and at Diesel School in Virginia. Following that, he trained in what was then known as the Scouts and Raiders, but what we today call the Navy Seals. He told stories of harrowing training, being dropped off at sea, miles from shore in the dead of night with only one objective: get back to base. This perhaps seems especially frightening to me because I’m not a strong swimmer and you know…sharks.
But, he worked hard and soon found himself in China where his unit was sent to train the Chinese as guerilla fighters against Japan. He also did extensive work as a mechanic.
(Harold Barr, front and center)
Most of the stories he told from his time in China were the antics that he and his buddies shared. One particular incident involved a group of them landing a giant sea turtle and tying it to a cot. Their plan was simple. After dinner, they would take their prize to the local market and sell it for beer money. Sea turtles, it turns out, are stronger than they imagined. Upon their return from the mess tent, they discovered that not only had the turtle found his way back to the sea, but he’d taken the entire cot with him.
It wasn’t long before the war ended in victory for the Allied troops. At that time, it became a job of rounding up the Japanese troops for surrender. Finally, in May of 1946, Harold was honorably discharged.
My grandpa didn’t share stories of great heroism. While his recon missions where dangerous, I don’t know how many, if any of his brothers fell in combat. He didn’t storm the beach of Normandy. He didn’t spend his career climbing military ranks.
What he did was what most kids his age seemed to be doing. They saw a battle for justice being fought and they stepped in to give their support to the cause.
He was strong. He was brave. He was steadfast. He was what America has traditionally been.
Let’s never forget, not only the men and women who have fought and died for the ideals of our nation, but also, let us never forget those ideals. We are one nation. Indivisible. But only if we work together. Let’s not waste the sacrifice that so many have made.
(The American flag being presented to my grandma, Lila Lee Barr at the memorial service for her husband, Harold W. Barr; 2015; Kelly Cemetery; Maupin, OR. Daughter (my mom), Teresa in the red shirt.)
With gratitude and humility for all who have served,
(Cover photo by Jakob Owens)