Friday, November 14, 2008

For My Dad (and Mom)

With COL Benson’s permission, I’d like to do a little something for my Dad, Hillard R. Barkley, Sr. Pop turns 89 in January.

CPT and Mrs. Barkley at the Officers Club at Ft. Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, c. 1950s.

A retired Army infantry major (1960) who was a combat veteran of World War II (Pacific Theatre) and Korea, Hill Barkley retired a second time in 1982 as a personnel officer with NASA at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

A fatherless boy (his father was a sheriff who was killed when Dad was a baby) who was a native of Macon, Georgia, Dad entered World War II with his National Guard unit and was later commissioned through OCS at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He fought in New Guinea and in the Philippines and later served in General Douglas MacArthur’s honor guard in Tokyo during the occupation.

1LT Barkley in 1949. Check the hashmarks on the Master Sergeant’s sleeve.

I was born in Tokyo in 1950 while Dad was fighting in Korea with General Edward M. Almond’s X Corps (Almond was a former Army instructor here at MMI).

Dad in Korea.

Playing Horseshoes in Korea.

Dad married the former Violet Beatrice Taylor of Byron, Georgia, in 1946 at the Justice ‘o Peace in Dillon, South Carolina, in route to assignment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Mom was a farm girl, one of ten children, who had worked in a Georgia ammunition plant during World War II. Hill and Vi became the parents of three wonderful children, two boys and a girl! Married nearly sixty years, they were separated only by the death of my Mom in 2005 at the age of 82 (on her birthday).

Pop served a three-year hitch in Karlsruhe, Germany, during the late 1950s, serving as a staff officer with the small Army garrison there. Returning to the States, we went next to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky (101st Airborne Division), where Dad served on General William C. Westmoreland’s staff, and where he retired from the Army as a major after twenty years in 1960. His military decorations include the Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Army Commendation Medal, among others.

Dad’s German ID.

My parents with the Mayor of Karlsruhe (left) and COL and Mrs. Pooley, the base commander, and close friends of my family.

Dad coaching the Little League baseball team, the mighty “Pirates,” in Karlsruhe (all were military dependent kids). My brother, J.R., is just below Dad to the left.

Me and Pop in Karlsruhe! My sister, B.J., may be taking the picture.

Dad’s retirement from the Army at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, in 1960. That’s not General Westmoreland, but the two families were friendly and my older brother actually dated the general’s daughter! J.R., by the way, is ex-Navy and a Vietnam veteran.

A “double-dipper” with the government, Dad worked as a personnel specialist first with the Army at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and then with NASA at Marshall in Huntsville. He retired again in 1982 at age 62 after another twenty years of service.

My parents, Sweet Peas both!

During Dad’s unique military career, he came into personal contact with such notables as Generals Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall (visiting Korea), and William C. Westmoreland, and also with such entertainers as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, drummer Buddy Rich, and even a chance encounter with soldier Elvis Presley in Germany.

I couldn’t end this without showing you how much fun my parents could be. Here’s Elvis and Mom in her Poodle skirt getting ready for the costume party at the Officers Club on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville (clothing, etc., courtesy of my sister-in-law, Jeanne Della-Calce Barkley)!

Elvis definitely has left the building!