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Spring 2013, Vol. 15, No. 2
Cover Article
  Jedh Barker
  Jedh Colby Barker

Exceptional Valor

Jedh Colby Barker holds a distinguished place in American history. At the age of 22, he gave his last full measure of devotion as a Marine when he sacrificed his own life to save his fellow Marines during the Vietnam War. In 1969, two years after his death, Jedh was recognized as a true American hero when he was named as a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Introduced during the Civil War, the Medal of Honor represents the highest military decoration presented by the U.S. Government to a member of its armed forces. The recipients must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Jedh, who attended Truman State University when the school was known as Northeast Missouri State Teachers College, is the only known former Truman student named among the venerable list of recipients.

Born in Franklin, N.H., in 1945, Jedh attended high school in Park Ridge, N.J., where he excelled in sports and served as captain of the football and baseball teams. Back in those days, Truman had a pipeline to New Jersey by way of Maurice “Red” Wade, coach of the football team, and Ken Gardner, the track coach, that resulted in an influx of Jersey students. In the fall of 1965, these connections brought Jedh to Kirksville to attend the college where he joined the Bulldog football team. The team photo in the 1966
Echo yearbook shows Jedh as a determined-looking young man in jersey number nine who looks like he’s ready to take on the world.

By May of 1966 when Jedh left college to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, the spirit of Semper Fi was firmly embedded in the Barker family. Both Jedh’s father, George C. Barker, and Jedh’s brother Warren were proud to wear the Marine uniform, and each had made the Marines a career. Even the unique spelling of Jedh’s name symbolizes the Marines as each letter represents the first name of four fellow Marines that his father had served with in World War II — John, Ezekial, Donald and Herbert.

  Medal of Honor being presented to Jedh Barker's family 
  In 1969, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew presented the Medal of Honor to the family of Jedh Barker.

Jedh became a member of the Special Volunteer Reserve, 1st Marine Corps District, New York, New York, until discharged to enlist in the regular Marine Corps. He arrived in South Vietnam in March of 1967, and having been promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal, was serving as a machine gunner with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. It was during a reconnaissance operation in September 1967 near Con Thien that Jedh demonstrated exceptional valor when his squad came under attack. His immense courage and sacrifice are described in this excerpt from the citation for his Medal of Honor:

“Although wounded by the initial burst of fire, Corporal Barker boldly remained in the open, delivering a devastating volume of accurate fire on the numerically superior force. The enemy was intent upon annihilating the small Marine force and, realizing that Corporal Barker was a threat to their position, directed the preponderance of their fire on his position. He was again wounded, this time in the right hand, which prevented him from operating his vitally needed machine gun. Suddenly, and without warning, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the few surviving Marines. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Corporal Barker threw himself upon the deadly grenade, absorbing with his own body the full and tremendous force of the explosion. In a final act of bravery, he crawled to the side of a wounded comrade and administered first aid before succumbing to his grievous wounds.”

In 1969, the Barker family was invited to the White House to accept Jedh’s Medal of Honor, which was presented by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. In addition to this distinguished decoration, a number of memorials serve as a tribute to Jedh’s courage and patriotism. After his death, the then-Pascack Valley American Legion Post 153 in Park Ridge renamed the post to the Cpl. Jedh C. Barker Memorial American Legion Post 153, and a street in Park Ridge was also named after Jedh. In addition, Jedh’s name is found among those engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and on the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel. The Marine Corps named a building located at Marine Corps Base Quantico (Va.) in Jedh’s honor, and today, Barker Hall stands as yet another noble reminder of the courageous Marine who gave his life for his country. Jedh’s name also appears on a bronze plaque on the Truman campus that lists former students who gave their lives in the Vietnam War.

More recently, Jedh was honored at the Veterans Day Ceremony on the Truman campus on Nov. 11, 2011. Jedh’s brother, John Barker, of Lakewood, N.J., and one of his three sisters, Susan Rilliet, of Landing, N.J., attended the ceremony. Presenting remarks on behalf of the family, John told how his older brother Jedh had been his mentor. “There’s nine years between us so it was a generation there, but he took me everywhere with him . . . he was training me,” said John, who noted that Jedh’s bravery and valor on that fateful day more than four decades ago came as no surprise to the Barker family. “Jedh defined living in the moment, his zest for life was contagious . . . he gave his life so that his comrades might live, he gave his life so that others may live more freely.”

University Unveils Bronze Sculpture

  Bronze Sculpture 
  Bronze sculpture by Brandon Crandall

Mark Gambaiana, vice president for University Advancement, remembers walking around campus with Brandon Crandall, a local artist, to view existing pieces of artwork on the grounds of Truman State University. The University had received a generous contribution to the Truman State University Foundation for the purpose of enhancing artwork on campus, and they were considering some of the options and opportunities. During their tour, they stopped by an outside wall displaying a series of memorial plaques that made a strong impression on the artist.

Located outside the entrance to the Ruth W. Towne Museum and Visitors Center, the plaques list the names of former Truman students and alumni who gave their lives in service of their country during major foreign wars. “Brandon had the inspiration that these plaques needed something to compliment them,” said Gambaiana. The idea evolved, and on Nov. 11, 2011, a new bronze sculpture, titled the “Purple Heart,” was unveiled during a Veterans Day Ceremony held on the Truman campus.

Designed and created by Crandall, the life-size sculpture depicts a father reverently holding his son’s Purple Heart, a military medal awarded in honor of those who have been wounded or killed in action. Serving as one of the guest speakers at the Veterans Day Ceremony, Crandall shared the inspiration behind his work. “Mark and I began talking in 2009 coming up with some ideas, and as we spoke, the word ‘sacrifice’ came up often,” said Crandall. “I began asking myself about the awards and medals that are given to soldiers, and I thought immediately of the Purple Heart . . . in some cases it goes to the family of the fallen soldier, and this was my answer.” To show the concept of sacrifice, Crandall decided to show the pain of a father who has lost his son because he felt that brought the message close to home for so many families.

  Bronze sculpture by Brandon Crandall 

Crandall describes the father portrayed in his sculpture as a working man who did what he could for his family and never asked for anything from anyone. “The father misses his son but is proud and reverent,” said Crandall. “You’ll notice that his left breast pocket is unbuttoned and open — this is where he keeps the medal, close to his heart."

The sculpture has been placed outside the entrance of the Ruth W. Towne Museum and Visitors Center facing the wall of plaques that served as Crandall’s inspiration. “I’m hoping this statue will stir emotions inside you,” said Crandall, in his remarks at the Veterans Day Ceremony. “That’s why I did it, because if it can do that, then I have done my job.”


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