Korean War veteran reflects on military service
by Marie Nesmith
Nov 11, 2010 | 1830 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ross’ Diner waitress Joan Burns laughs at Ed Barrett’s, right, reaction to another customer’s comment as he eats his usual breakfast at the diner consisting of a hamburger, gravy and onions. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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As various Veterans Day celebrations get under way today, Ed Barrett is reflecting on his decade of service in the Army and his friends who were killed in battle.

"[Each Veterans Day] I'm thinking about all the people that got shot and killed, all my friends that didn't come back," he said.

In 1952, the Euharlee resident was drafted into the Army at 22 and served about 10 years before being honorably discharged. Now 80, Barrett said his military recollections run the gamut, from fighting in below freezing temperatures in the Korean War to serving as Elvis Presley's sergeant in Germany to viewing the picturesque beauty of Holland on leave.

"When I was in Korea, it was so cold I froze -- my feet, both legs," Barrett said about fighting in the snowy, wintertime conditions. "I had three men [freeze] to death. It [felt like] 53 to 56 below zero. That's a cold place. Gas froze in the trucks and everything else. [My feet], they've given me trouble all my life. Matter of fact, I went to a doctor today.

"[During the war] I'd sleep out there. We had to [be outside] because the war was going on. We were on the line. After midnight, [the North Koreans] would come in on us and we would have to be there waiting on them. [We were out there] all night and maybe [we would] get a little sleep the next day. ... I've suffered all my life. When you freeze, you don't get over it. It sticks with you," he said, adding his feet still hurt, especially at night, hampering his walking abilities.

While his Korean War involvement was one of his most painful military experiences, serving with Presley later in his career provided lighter source material for his present-day military stories. Although the singer was already famous, Barrett said Presley was a very likable, down-to-earth person.

"When he was in Germany, he was in the same outfit I was in -- the 3rd Armored Division, a tank division," Barrett said, adding their mission was being on guard in case Russian forces crossed into Berlin. "He went out in the field and I [saw] him every day. He had to fight the women off. He invited me to come to his house down in Memphis [after the war] -- I believe it was Memphis -- and I enjoyed that. It was beautiful. He had about 12 Cadillacs sitting out in the garage for his daddy and momma.

"As far as I was concerned he was just a good person. He'd get along with everybody. They'd tell him he didn't have to go out in the cold and he'd say, 'I'll go anyway.' ... I felt like he was a fine person, very easy to get along with. It was just a shame that things turned out like they did for him."

During his military service, Barrett received several medals, including the Bronze Star. After being discharged at 32, he cared for his parents in Bartow County, married his wife, Louella, in 1962 and they raised five children. His professional life consisted of working for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and being a residential and commercial painter.

Although he is reserved about sharing his wartime stories, many local residents have been intrigued by Barrett's military experiences through the years, including customers of Ross' Diner, where he has been a routine patron since the 1960s.

"He has some interesting, short stories about going out with Elvis," said Galen McDaniel, who has talked with Barrett several times at Ross' Diner. "He told me once that the entire table would get kisses -- just because they were with Elvis -- from the girls. That was one of the stories he told me -- that they would go out at night and the entire group of men would get kisses from girls just because they were with Elvis.

"He's just such a super guy and I've enjoyed his personality through the years. I don't know if he's a big storyteller, but he did tell me that [story]. ... [Talking with him], culturally it's very interesting as well as [learning about] the war side of it."