By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
84-year-old Curtis Barger proudly stood beside his 1952 M38 War Jeep as a silver star and purple heart hung from his breast pocket above rows of many other medals and ribbons. Saturday was London Downtown’s third Cruisin’ On Main event this summer, which was dedicated to “heroes.”
Law enforcement, fire fighters and veterans were abundantly present at the event. London Downtown recognized Barger as a “true American hero,” and awarded him with a plaque and a U.S. flag, a gift from Sen. Mitch McConnell, which was flown over the capitol in Frankfort.
“Curtis Barger is a war veteran... and is a big part of Cruisin’ On Main,” said Tonya Lewis, a member of the London Downtown committee.
Barger entered the military in 1951 in Kentucky and fought in the Korean War. He said he didn’t have the pleasure of driving a vehicle like the one he owns today, but traveled by foot through the mountains as a part of the Second Inventory Division.
“I like my silver star the most because it’s not the highest, but I remember well the day I was awarded that,” he said.
On Sept. 20, 1951, Barger remembers being in a heavy battle upon a hill with hostile fire. His infantry was told to pull out. He said he saw one of his men get shot and he traveled down the hill to yell out to the Lieutenant.
“Hey, Lieutenant Riddle! I saw this guy get shot, let’s check him out,” he said.
“He advanced in an attempt to reach the wounded man. He was forced to crawl through the hazardous terrain until he reached the side of his comrade. He then dragged the man through devastating enemy fire to friendly lines,” Larry Corum, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, read of Barger’s wartime bravery. “He (Barger) was directly responsible for saving the man’s life.”
The document was a citation to accompany the award for the silver star from the U.S. government and signed by Wilbur Wilson, U.S. Army chief of staff.
This was one in many instances when Barger risked his life for his fellow soldiers in service. But out of all the courageous things he’s done, he regrets one thing the most.
“I didn’t get into their pockets and get their billfold out to get an address and write a letter to it,” he said.
A courtesy any family would appreciate.
Upon purchasing the war jeep, Barger had it restored to commemorate his time in service.
“It was built especially for the Korean War, and I was there.”