Veteran and former Manila student speaks to students
Eddie Joe Barker, Army veteran, was the guest speaker for the Manila seventh and eighth grade students on Wednesday, April 20.
Barker, a 1967 graduate of Manila High School, was introduced by Paula Poag, Middle School teacher.
Barker was drafted in 1969, returned home in 1971; and recently retired from Arkansas State University.
"Books, movies, and songs have been written about Vietnam," Mrs. Poag said. "Mr. Barker will be sharing his first hand experience. This is true history."
"I am just one person," Barker said. "Millions of men served and each has a story to tell."
Barker had a picture of a classmate and friend, Garvin Dill, displayed. He told the students he was dedicating the day and giving honor to his friend, Garvin Dill, who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
"He gave his life for his country," Barker said.
Barker was part of the 101st Airborne.
"I'm not here to paint a pretty picture of war," he said. "58,000 American lives were lost with 300,000 wounded. A lot of guys cannot talk about it. This is my first time."
He told the young people soldiers come from the war and they want to forget it and not talk about it.
He said he was reluctant to attend a reunion of his fellow soldiers when he was contacted but he finally did go and it helped him be able to talk about it.
'I love my country and I would do it again if necessary," he said. "We are fortunate to never have had a foreign country come to fight on our soil."
Barker is a member of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, 101 Airborne Association, Craighead County Honor Guard.
He talked about the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC with over 50,000 names.
"I had my first military training at Milligan Ridge in the Boy Scouts," he said. "I was raised on a farm, graduated from Manila and had never been out of the area until I was drafted.
He talked about his training and his time served in Vietnam as a Platoon Sergeant. Barker had pictures he had taken during his tour in Vietnam. He talked about the food, the snakes, the problems soldiers had with insect bits, jungle rot, water, and much more. He talked about the Agent Orange sprayed to kill the green leaves.
"We didn't like it them because it took away our cover," he said. "Little did we know years later, it would cause cancer. When I started home I thought I was untouched by war," he said. "Little did I know I would have problems later. I thank the Lord I came back in one piece. If it was not for My Lord Jesus I would not be here. Over 600 men from Arkansas were killed."
He thanked the students for their attention and