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Captain William Henry Barrett, Jr. – USMM

WHB-Tallulah

Bill Barrett began his career in the United States Merchant Marine as a cadet at the Merchant Marine Academy’s satellite campus in Pass Christian, Mississippi. His studies were interrupted when the U.S. entered World War II. He would not receive his diploma until 1968. During the war, he served on Liberty Ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. For most of his career he served aboard tankers. Often his cruises supported military operations including shuttling water to Guantanamo until the desalination plant was operational, shuttling fuel from the Persian Gulf to Cam Rahn Bay during the Vietnam war and even shuttling grain to the Soviet Union.

The Merchant Marine suffered the greatest casualty rate of all services during World War II but were not considered veterans and denied benefits until an act of Congress in 1977 and federal court order in 1988 made it so. Today’s mariners are paid quite well and while it remains a dangerous occupation, it does have its rewards.

After he retired, he returned to his home in St. Augustine. Although his maritime activities continued, they mostly revolved around fishing. He died in 1991.

On this Veterans Day, I would like to salute my father, his brother and the many merchant mariners who also served this country.

 

 

Honor the Dead – Fight for the Living

Today is the first day of Memorial Day weekend – traditionally celebrated as the beginning of summer. On Monday, at cemeteries across this country, people will gather to honor those military heroes who gave their life in service to our country.

St. Augustine National Cemetery

St. Augustine National Cemetery

This year, however, will be different. We will also be mourning American veterans who have died because of negligence and greed on the part of the government employees hired to serve them. At a growing number of Veterans Administration hospitals, veterans requiring medical care have been intentionally ignored – removed from appointment waiting lists. Why? To protect raises and bonuses for administrative employees at those hospitals. Each week the list of hospitals involved in this evil practice grows. We know of at least 40 people who have died while waiting for appointments.

While the casualty rate for veterans grows, what is being done to resolve this problem? Nothing. Last night the Senate blocked a bill that would have made VA managers accountable for their actions. The bill was a small first step towards fixing a monstrous problem and even it was too much to ask for our veterans. It’s an election year, so we know where our politicians’ priorities are.

The politicians may be trying to wait this scandal out. It’s up to the rest of us to make sure that doesn’t happen. Demand action now! Make your voice heard on Facebook, Twitter and their web sites. Spend a few minutes this Memorial Day showing America’s veterans – those serving now and those who have served – that you understand the debt this country owes them. You might just save a life in the process.

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Veterans Day

Class Photo 1976

From August 1975 to August 1979 I was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi where I taught tech school – computer operations. This was one of my classes in 1976. That’s me on the right. As you can see from the tape drives behind us, computers were a tad bit bigger in those days.

To all the men and women who have served this great country – thank you. I’m honored to have served with you.