For several weeks, Dallas Barber was not certain he would be on the Triad Honor Flight to see memorials that pay tribute to the fallen, but when the plane touched off on Veterans Day, he was one of five World War II veterans on board.
In all 95 veterans who served in World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Cold War era along with chaperones, medical personnel and other volunteers made up the total of about 200 on the excursion.
A month earlier, Barber, who served in the Army Air Force from 1943-46, had been admitted to Annie Penn Hospital after a fall at his Monroeton-area home. That morning, Barber told his wife, Mary Jean, to cancel the D.C. trip, but she held off doing it.
After spending three days in the hospital, Barber was sent home but still was concerned he couldn’t make the trip since he could not walk. But, thanks to three occupational therapists who worked with him at home three times a week, he was waiting at the door when his guardian Terry Davis arrived to take him to the airport.
“He had called me and told me he would be ready at 5,” but Davis told him he would be there at 6.
“When I pulled into his yard, he was coming out the door,” said Davis, a retired Army staff sergeant with 20 years of service. “He was rippin’ and roarin’ and excited to go.”
When Barber heard they were doing the Triad Honor Flight again after 10 years, he called Davis.
“I’m going to be 98 years old (Nov. 3), and this is probably the only chance to go see the World War II Memorial,” he said. Barber asked Davis, Commander of N.C. Disabled American Veterans Chapter No. 63, to check on it because he wanted to go and wanted Davis to be his guardian, Davis reported.
Even after he got sick, “he fought to go on this trip,” Davis said.
They were on the first two seats in the front row of the plane. Throughout the 45-minute flight, Barber told Davis repeatedly he could not wait to see the WWII monument.
However, he had to wait because the Iowa Jima Memorial was first on the list. Although Barber was excited to see it and get photographs made, he still could hardly wait to get back on the bus and to the WWII Memorial.
The group filled four chartered buses as they visited a number of war memorials, placing wreaths at four of them. They also stopped at the Martin Luther King Jr. and Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials.
At the Air Force Memorial, Barber said he was not getting off the bus because he came to see the WWII Memorial. When Davis told him they were going to eat, Barber got off and was glad he did because he thought that was “the most fascinating (memorial) to me. The sculpture was really pretty. It looks like a plane, and it ends up in the sky.”
Finally, at about 2 p.m., Barber was at the WWII Memorial. North Carolina lost 146 of its soldiers in the war.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was so fantastic,” he said. “I thought about all my friends and neighbors that had died back there in WWII.”
Barber found names of a number of people from Reidsville on the monument. The first Reidsville casualty was Frederick Cook, a former neighbor when Barber had lived on Thompsonville Street before being drafted. Cook was the son of a Mrs. Reece and was about 20 when he died in the war.
Several other neighbors before the war listed included James Joyce, 19 or 20, who lived on Barnes Street, and Tommy Fretwell Jr., a sewing machine salesman.
The names were listed by state on the monument, which was in front of a military cemetery. The monument wall was covered completely with stars containing the names of the heroes, Barber said.
“We scrambled off the bus, and I pushed his wheelchair up to the memorial but they took pictures first.
“He was almost speechless” looking at the memorial, Davis said. “He was a little teary-eyed.”
“They did a wonderful job. I am so glad I got to see this. They put a lot of effort in this,” Barber said.
Davis steered him around and took Barber to the large body of water between the Lincoln Memorial and the area where King gave one of his famous speeches. A lot of people in that area came up to thank the veterans and have their pictures made with them.
At one point, Barber recalled going to the top of the Washington Memorial 50 years ago.
The Korean War and Vietnam memorials and Lincoln Memorial were last, but Barber still was talking about the WWII Memorial, Davis said, Barber expressed several times how thankful he was God let him visit it with the help of his family, the doctors and especially his therapists.
Driving back to the airport, the tour guide pointed out more landmarks, including the area of the Pentagon damaged on Sept. 11, 2001.
They were supposed to be home at 8:15 that night but were running late.
“We were overwhelmed by the hundreds of people that welcomed us back at PTI,” Davis said, but Dallas was ready to go and didn’t talk to any reporters.
“I couldn’t of asked for a better person to take care of me,” Barber said of Davis later. “Terry took me everywhere in a wheelchair so I could see.”
They arrived back at Barber’s home about 10 p.m.
“I was completely exhausted,” Barber said. “We had the best of everything: The finest buses, tour guides; all of it was well organized.”
As they were boarding the plane home, each veteran was given a large envelope filled with cards from school children, organizations and individuals. They had collected souvenirs throughout the day.
The next day, Barber poured over the cards but couldn’t decide on a favorite. He finally chose one from his nine-year-old great grandson Camdyn Fargis, a Wentworth School fourth grader. Camdyn is the son of Jordan and April Fargis of Reidsville.
It said: “Thank you for your service. Grandma says you were in the Air Corps in WWII. You kept many safe from enemies. Camdyn.”
Born in Tohse, Va., Barber’s family moved to Reidsville when he was 3. He attended Reidsville High School.
Drafted at age 19 in 1943, Barber was stationed at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. They fused and finned the 500-pound bombs and took them where they needed to be, the veteran said. They also delivered 30-caliber and 20-millimeter bullets for the firing ranges and machine guns used on the planes.
After the war, Barber lived in Washington State for 22 years before moving to Reidsville in 1965. He owned two service stations in Reidsville and then worked for Ansco & Associates for eight years before retiring in 1990. Next, Barber drove an A&H Furniture delivery truck for another eight years, finally retiring in 1998.
He and his wife, the former Mary Jean Barber Cook, live in the Monroeton community. Their children are Brian and Brent Barber, Claudia Barber Everette and Tammy Cook Woodall. They have four grandchildren and eight grandchildren.
One of the first things Barber did the day after the trip was call event organizer Allison Huber, and thank her.
“The whole thing was well planned and they really gave us the best treatment of anything I had ever been on. It was really nice,” Barber said.
“It was impressive and a wonderful trip.”