By BETSY TAYLOR
Associated Press Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Spc. Glenn Barker is trying to recover after suffering a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq, the death of his 15-year-old son earlier this year, and flood damage that left his home uninhabitable.
On Monday, the American Legion Heroes to Hometowns program and the Missouri Veterans Commission asked for the public’s help to raise $63,000 to help Barker. The money would be spent on home repairs not covered by insurance and the purchase of a used trailer he can live in temporarily and later use as a work space.
Barker, 41, lives outside the east-central Missouri town of Potosi. He deployed with the Arkansas National Guard to hunt down improvised explosive devices in Iraq, and said he lived through nine detonations while driving an armored vehicle looking for roadside bombs.
The worst explosion came in August of last year, he recalled, when he ran over homemade explosives buried in a road. He suffered back injuries, a perforated ear drum and a traumatic brain injury that wreaked havoc on his short-term memory.
“The left ear is pretty much done,” he said, gesturing to that side of his head.
He writes himself notes and uses information stored on his cell phone to help him remember.
In May, his 15-year-old son, Zachary, was a passenger on an all-terrain vehicle in rural eastern Missouri that crossed onto a roadway and into the path of an oncoming car, killing the boy.
Barker, who is divorced, was out of state receiving treatment for his injuries when Zachary was killed.
“I have one other son. I guess you could say he’s my crutch; he keeps me going,” he said. “We miss his brother dearly.”
Barker is also trying to restore the log home that he had built himself. The house was destroyed by mold when it flooded after pipes burst following a multi-day power outage in 2006.
Barker is now in a program at Fort Leonard Wood working to improve his memory, his balance, his back and his right hand, which he said sometimes shakes.
The one-time auto body shop owner didn’t know what his future occupation might be, saying it’s hard to finish any task with his memory problems.
Family members mention that many of his tools were stolen while the Purple Heart recipient was gone, and that he sometimes has slept in his truck in recent months. They offer him a place to stay, but say right now, he’s having a hard time settling in one place.
“I don’t have in my mind what I want to do. I’m just lost,” he said.
The Department of Defense tells injured soldiers what help is available to them, and they must give their permission for their information to be shared.
For the first half of 2008, the American Legion’s Heroes to Hometowns program has assisted 380 soldiers nationwide. Since June of last year, the Missouri effort has helped more than 20 soldiers.
Shirley Janes, who chairs the Missouri American Legion’s Heroes to Hometowns program, notes that there are multiple efforts to help soldiers in need as they return home — whether it’s trying to make sure they keep medical appointments, providing them gas cards or helping with housing.
“The bottom line is we will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to help these heroes transition back home,” she said.
Barker, who explained during the interview that he wouldn’t be able to retain the conversation for more than a few minutes, thought for a moment when asked if he has regrets.
“For what it cost me, yes. But regret for my country? No,” he said. “I don’t feel the Army owes me. I’m just asking for a little help.”
On the Net:
Home for Wounded Warrior: http://aidforourwoundedsoldiers.org/woundedmissourian.htm
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
firstname.lastname@example.org :: 800-992-9447 :: Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.