Monday, July 10, 2017

Charles Edward Barker: All American

July 3, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

I would like to take a moment to write about somebody I have known for more than forty years. He was always a man of his word and a genuine intellectual. He was compassionate, caring and helpful to others. His whole life focused on learning and he was an excellent teacher. Also, most important, his word was his bond. Almost twenty years ago we made a verbal agreement for me to write the Kollenborn Chronicles when he and Chuck Baker launched the AJ News in Apache Junction and Gold Canyon. We agreed to the following conditions. My articles would not be censored or edited except for grammar and spelling. Ed verbally agreed to this and for twenty years his word was his bond. I wrote columns based on a handshake and nothing more. He never broke his word to me nor I mine. You might say our political views were quite different, however, I always considered him the “voice of reason” in Apache Junction. His Editorial “Que Pasa” was always well written and based on accurate information. If he made a mistake he always corrected it, but otherwise stood by his research and his convictions. He honored other people’s opinions and worked in every way to help his community. He certainly made a difference in Apache Junction and made his family proud of his actions and sense of community.

Ed Barker and Tom Kollenborn, 2015.
I am writing about the Ed Barker I knew, not the man that was my editor. He was as much a part of these mountains as any of the others I have known or written about over the years. These men often had outstanding military records and had been brave on the battlefield in the defense of their country. These men and women were Democrats, Conservatives, and Independents; however the color of their blood on the battlefield was all the same, and the color of their skin made no difference when death was all around them. They were united with one common cause and that was defending America and survival. These men believed “united we stand, divided we fall.” Such were men like Major Monte Edwards, Staff Sergeant Edwin Buckwitz, Master Sergeant Donald Shade, Master Sergeant Dennis Mack, Sergeant Ronald (Eagle) DeAndrea and Corporal Charles Edward Barker.

All of these men and many more found the Superstition Mountain to be their “rock” later in life. It was a place to escape from the reality of the past. Ed Barker allowed me to write in his paper about these legendary lands, places and its people and without this opportunity you would not have been reading my words for the past twenty years. This mountain and the many stories he heard was home to Ed Barker.

Ed Barker was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1944, the Volunteer State. He graduated from high school in Knoxville in 1960. Ed earned an athletic scholarship to the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Massachusetts. After Viet Nam Ed returned to his education. He then attended Kearny State University (now the University of Nebraska) where he studied history and psychology. After graduation, Ed worked as a psychologist. He also worked as a sports editor for the Hasting’s Tribune. Ed worked for several newspapers over the years including the Knoxville Sentinel, and Atlanta Constitution.

While attending college, Ed Barker was drafted into the Army in 1964 at the age of twenty. He did his basic training and then was assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Division, 11th Cavalry Regiment, 227th Assault Helicopter Company, in Viet Nam. He served as a door gunner on a Huey helicopter. The mission of his helicopter crew was getting combat teams in and out of battle zones. As a door gunner he protected these teams and other helicopters. He was in the LZ X-Ray at the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in November of 1965. He received two Purple Hearts, Air Medals, Aircraft Crewmen Wings, Bronze Medal for Valor, Combat Infantry Badge, Campaign Ribbons and Viet Nam’s Cross of Gallantry.

After Viet Nam, Ed was a changed man. He ask himself some deep, penetrating questions about life and the political establishment in America that would send young men off to war to be mangled and die for what reason? Yet, when these young men returned home, the general population ignored the Viet Nam veterans, and even accused them of atrocities. Most of the young men who died in Viet Nam were average Americans and they certainly weren’t from privileged families who could easily get deferments for various reasons. Just maybe, when you listen to Bobby Greensboro’s “Broomstick Cowboy”, you might recognize where Ed Barker was coming from. Ed was an extremely deep thinker; very intelligent and had an excellent understanding of psychology. I do know Viet Nam haunted Ed with many bad memories to the final days of his life.

It is men like Corporal Charles Edward Barker who makes “America Great.” It was our veterans who laid their lives on the line for us who provide a future for America. Without their sacrifice there would be no free America. “United we stand, divided we fall.” Ed would always thank a veteran for his service to his or her country. Be proud of America, next time you see a veteran please thank him for his service to this country. If there is to be a memorial for Ed Barker it would be thanking Americans who served in the military during our times of need. Our country and community is a better place because of people like Corporal Charles Edward Barker.