Brice H. Barnes, May 2004

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Brice H. Barnes

Veteran of the Month, May 2004

Brief bio.

Born, Dec. 23, 1941, the same day the Wake Island fell to the Japanese invaders. So the world was beset by twin calamities on the same day. I was the third child in our family of four children, born at Fort Ringgold, Texas, which is located in Rio Grande City. Ft. Ringgold was the last active cavalry post in the entire US Army, and some swear that a veterinarian delivered me. Raised in San Antonio, where despite many doubters, I graduated from high school. Between tours in RVN, I completed my undergraduate degree in Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Between my beautiful wife, KC (Karen Charline to the uninitiated) and myself, we have 5 adult children, 7 grandchildren, and a spoiled miniature Dachshund, Sassy. We live about 10 miles from Dripping Springs, TX. Our parents have gone ahead, probably setting up the picnic tables while preparing for a grand bar-be-cue to be held later. My surviving brother lives with his family in Australia, and my little sister lives in Georgetown, TX, with her mate. Our children include a combat vet from Panama ?Just Cause,? three beautiful daughters, and son #2, who is currently in Iraq.

Why did you decide to join the Armed services?

One of my friends from high school had enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard, completed OCS and flight school, and thought it would be a great adventure if we could fly together. After taking several flights with him, both in fixed wing and in ?fling? wing aircraft, I decided that I too would go the same route. Onliest problem was that I couldn?t qualify for flight school due my less than perfect vision. Ooops!! Too late - I had already put my hand in the air and enlisted. Basic Combat Training at Ft. Polk, where I served as an ?acting sergeant? for the entire company; completed Airfield Operations training at Ft. Hood, TX, in an OJT status. The following summer, I completed Officers Candidate School at Ft. Benning. From a Guard unit that was on the ?Select Reserve Force,? with constant rumors of activation or mobilization, I decided to avoid the rush and volunteered for active duty. Other mitigating reasons were (1) I?d qualify for the GI Bill, and needed help finishing my degree, and (2) by being in RVN, my brother, fresh out of the Peace Corps and subject for the Draft, couldn?t be sent there while I was there.

Where were you assigned during your tour?

After being processed through the 90th Replacement Battalion at Long Binh, I was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division.

What was your first assignment?

Company B, 2-47th Infantry (Mechanized), 9th Infantry Division. This assignment lasted 4 ? months.

Where did you go next?

HHC, of the same battalion, where I was assigned as the Scout Platoon Leader. It was during this assignment that the nickname ?SuperScout? was given by our Operations Officer. After 5 ? months as the Scout Platoon Leader, I was assigned as the HHC Company Commander for my last 64 days in country.
Returning to the States, I was assigned to 4th US Army Headquarters, Ft. Sam Houston, TX, where I helped write and task organize various contingency plans units involved in worldwide deployment. While at Ft. Sam, I was accepted for the Degree Completion Program at the University of Texas at Austin, with orders reading, ?? for a period of approximately xxx days, TDY, enroute to RVN?? Oh, unmitigated joy, I would go back to RVN as a college-educated target.
Returning to the Land of the Live Fire Exercise, I was assigned to Co D, 5-12th Infantry, 199th Infantry Brigade. This assignment was a total shock to my system, when I realized that I would have to carry everything I ever owned, wanted or needed in my rucksack. Having been in a Mech unit before had spoiled me rotten! We did the Cambodia excursion deal, OPCON to the 1st Cav Division, where I learned that 4 Chinooks with external sling loads of expropriated NVA bicycles would not completely halt the invaders from the North. When the Brigade was redeployed to the States, I was transferred to a Military Advisory Team in Binh Duong province where I functioned as a psyops advisor. Several exercises in grand larceny later, I was transferred to Bangkok, Thailand, for a long tour. Later, working with the Defense Investigative Agency, I helped convict a corrupt commander in Bangkok of charges that led to his imprisonment.
My other assignments have included assistant division intelligence officer, battalion operations officer, battalion executive officer, battalion commander, and OPFOR (Opposing Forces) commander. I retired from the military in December 1993.

Have any interesting highlights to share?

While serving with the mech platoon, we found and exploited the largest weapons and ammunition cache of the war in Vietnam. Documents found later revealed this cache was to be used during the ?attack on Saigon,? an upcoming event that we couldn?t appreciate at the time, but learned about later, by experiencing it personally. Tet. Besides taking all their weapons, ammunition, and brand new medicine from France, my platoon personally feasted on some chickens we captured from the former guards of this cache.

What were your most memorable experiences in the military?

Sharing a Tet Celebration meal with a Vietnamese family, in complete peace, tranquility, surrounded by a loving family and wonderful food, after experiencing the horrors of the Tet Offensive several years earlier. But more than that, being totally awed and dazzled by the unquestioned bravery I saw on a repeated basis, and then realizing that I had the honor of commanding these warriors.

How did you feel about going into combat?

It was what I had been trained to do, so with the self-confidence of the uninitiated, I did what I thought I was supposed to do; exercising some introspective thinking, I shudder at some of the things I did. But I was blessed with some of the finest warriors God ever put on this earth, very qualified, and very forgiving.

What was your homecoming like?

Landing at Travis AFB, we were quickly processed through Customs, and four of us piled into a taxi, heading for San Francisco airport. We had been told by personnel at Travis that a non-stop flight to Dallas was leaving at 1:30 pm, and we could make it if we hurried. The Taxicab driver needed no further inducement, and we proceeded down the highway at a speed unequaled in the previous 12 months. I thought to myself, ?Did I just complete a tour, only to die in a car wreck in California?? Fortunately, we made it safely to SFO. Arriving later in Austin, somewhat plied with gifts of liquor from appreciative passengers, I heard my little son, almost 3, running to meet me at the plane, followed by his mom. He didn?t say a single word, all the way home, but sat in my lap, looking at me, and just giggled!

What do you consider your greatest achievements?

Hopefully, I?m not done yet with accomplishing things, so I can?t say which one is the greatest! But venturing a guess I?d say helping to raise 5 children to adulthood, helping them to become embracers of the concept of servanthood.

What are some of the highlights of your life since the war?

In total lack of anonymity and humility, effectively dealing with my alcoholism, by the Grace of God, and thoroughly embracing the practices of AA. Without this blessed sobriety, me and God probably couldn?t have done what we did. And at last report, He isn?t done with me yet, and being of service to others is my way of partially returning some of the blessings I?ve received. Continuing to work on my relationship with my God has to rank at the very top.

Are you active in veterans' organizations?

A Life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, membership in Legion of Valor, and newly elected Senior Vice Commander, Post 6441 of the VFW (and a regular ?Bingo? caller!). Our VFW post is very active in the community, sponsoring an annual rodeo on the 4th of July weekend, and providing many scholarships to selected high schoolers, and other community benefits. Also a member of the Association of the United States Army. Although not a ?veteran? organization, I?m a worker with our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, and very active in the Dripping Springs United Methodist Church (Emmaus Walk #759).

Do you keep in contact with your military comrades?

Wow! Do I!!! We have a very effective regimental reunion group, and an even stronger battalion group that gets together almost every year. We have a Scouts? Scramble Golf Tournament and Lying Contest every opportunity we can, and welcome outsiders with glee! Golf handicaps are optional and variable!

What can be done to improve public awareness of foreign policy and military and veterans' affairs?

Great philosophers have long advocated the value of reading and education, and I am behooved to concur with their collective wisdom. Readings, especially in history will enlighten, and often provide answers to some of today?s most pressing and perplexing questions. But with wisdom comes a concomitant obligation to act in the best interests of others; servanthood is a very high calling, and may be the very reason we?re here to begin with. Strengthening our nation?s defenses must be priority #1, for without a safe homeland, all else is for naught.

Are there any messages you would like to communicate to your fellow veterans?

First and foremost, be aware of your personal health. For all the wonders of modern chemistry to which we have been subjected, some it has not been to our benefit, and we need to frequently visit our doctors, and demand, not ask, but demand semi-annual PSA tests and other preventive care measures. Not to nag, but we must take care of one another now, just like we did back ?then.? Secondly, my most profound thanks to David and Bernadette and others for the honor of being selected as VOM; I am in some ?heavy? company, and will try not to embarrass my peers by obscene gestures, loud bodily functions, or scratching private parts, either mine or others! This is a great site, seriously folks, and a future historian?s gold mine. It is a ?safe? place where our stories can be posted, as ours is a rich legacy of decency and service worthy to be preserved.

But perhaps the most important thing I wish to communicate to my brothers and sisters is that we must embrace our current crop of warriors with fervor unlike anything before, as they must and will win this war against terrorists. Then, when they return, we must embrace them even more tightly, working together to assimilate them, to heal them and to honor them as they so richly deserve. May God continue to bless America, and may we help spread freedom throughout the world. Scouts Out!!

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