Friday, February 16th, 2007
By Janie Southard
Father proud of sons who serve in military
Every day that Rich Barger comes home from work and finds no Army vehicle waiting in front of his Celina home, he considers it a good day.
Barger's sons Mike, 20, and A.J., 19, both are currently in military service. Mike is serving in Iraq, while A.J. is in basic training with the Army at Fort Jackson, S.C.
His oldest son, Chris, served with the Marine Corps' special operations unit as a designated marksman (sniper) and now lives in Troy.
Chris was the first to provide his dad with experience in military operations beginning in September 2001.
"Ten days after 9/11 he parachuted into Afghanistan. Before he left he gave me a quick call and told me he couldn't say where he was going or when, but wanted me to know where his car was parked at the airport," Barger recalled.
Now it's Mike's turn.
In his fifth month in Iraq, he is a specialist with the Indiana National Guard and has another 13 months to serve. The Indiana affiliation came about because of his attendance at Ball State University in Muncie.
His duty includes operating the big gun (50-caliber machine gun) mounted on top of the vehicle. It was just before Christmas that the Humvee Mike was driving hit a land mine.
His dad learned he'd been hurt when the National Guard called and said Mike had been in a blast in the Humvee. The message stated Mike was receiving treatment for his injuries, but gave no more details.
"At least, from that, I knew he was alive and I couldn't worry any further about the vehicle or the situation ... The glass was half full," said Barger, an early intervention specialist with Marimor School MR/DD in Lima and an amateur philosopher who likes to quote another amateur philosopher.
Hanging on the wall in the Barger living room is one of Vince Lombardi's sayings: "Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time."
"My boys have heard that a lot growing up," he said.
Just a few weeks ago Mike described some of the details of the bomb to his dad in a letter. He wrote that he wanted to "make sure that what I write is printed" and that the "newspaper does not add anything that did not happen."
"It was a normal day," he wrote. "My squad went out and did a routine recon mission to the place where we were to be going. I'm sorry I cannot give specifics.
After we crossed the bridge and got off the tracks that (were) on our route, we started to travel down a road that was about 10 feet wide.
"We were traveling down the center of the road to avoid the roadside bombs that the insurgents usually plant.
"As our convoy approached our destination, the scout vehicle warned us about something strange that was sitting in the road. I saw the abstract obstacle and swerved to avoid hitting it just in case it was an I.E.D. (Editor's note: improvised explosive device, i.e., booby trap.)
"After my vehicle rolled past, the obstacle exploded and rocked our vehicle. The blast was big enough to make my head smash against the steering wheel.
"I was shaken up at first but then after about 10 minutes, I was finally calmed down. After we got back to our base I went to seek medical attention. I had also learned from the medic that I had gotten a grade two concussion.
"I am doing well at our new location, and everything is going as we planned.
Mike thanks the community for its continued support of soldiers and then ends with a saying his dad taught him: "Brave is not facing what is to happen. Being brave is doing what needs to be done."
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Mostly cloudy, showers