Note: Specialist Valdez was on the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center for many months while recovering from a devastating illness that left her in a coma. Her rehabilitation was arduous, but she never quit smiling. It was on the Polytrauma Unit where she met Doc and this story was part of her rehabilitation.
“Without the Korean War, there would be no South Korea,” says Don “Doc” Barker, who is a Korean War Veteran. He joined the Navy as a Corpsman and later served as a platoon corpsman with the Marines rifle company during the Korean War. He spent six months in the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment. He now helps many Veterans, wounded or not with all sorts of different things, whether it be a brain injury, blindness or amputation. He has no preference and always lends his hands.
While in the service, Doc dealt with severe injuries at a rapid pace. He stated that while working during the Korean War, he and his coworkers would have so many patients that they would have to re-use their gloves. He expressed that during that time they would see patients come in and out, one right after another; assessed, triaged, and treated. They would place their soiled gloves into a bucket of zephirine chloride to be sterilized and used again.
Recently at VAPAHCS, a video was presented about the Korean War. Times have definitely changed. Doc was in Korea amidst the “battle,” and I served there about 60 years later. Veterans that are still around from the Korean War are dealing with injuries and illnesses different from what Veterans are dealing with these days. After talking with Doc, he has shown me that change is inevitable. Many things have remained unchanged but of course, some have changed.
One thing that has not changed are his memories. Doc says, “It’s a blessing to be a blessing.” I was fortunate to be able to share stories with him and see the joy in his eyes as he recalled those memories. He brought over a whole scrapbook and told me stories for almost every single picture.
A true blessing it is for me, actually, to write this little story about Don “Doc” Barker, a joyous and spirited man who has endured many things and shares his experiences with others. It was a blessing and honor to have shared these little experiences and memories with this man.
As I walk the streets or the halls of VAPAHCS, I try to smile and even shake Veterans’ hands and thank them for their service, because without them I think of how different our lives would be. Have the courage to do the same.