2nd Lt. Barry Hill -Vietnam Veteran
In 1968, the year Barry graduated from college, the big companies weren’t hiring; there was too much uncertainty about which young men would be drafted. With this reality and as the son of a World War II fighter pilot, Barry’s patriotism led him to volunteer for the Army. Just before graduation from Officer Candidate School, those who had survived its rigors were asked where they would like to be assigned—with no promise that their wishes would be honored. Barry felt he was in the best physical and mental shape of his life, which would help him to survive the rigors of combat. He put down, “1.Vietnam, 2.Vietnam, 3.Vietnam.” Not surprisingly, Barry got his request. He went as an Artillery Forward Observer. Concerned about his serious inability to see without glasses, Barry packed three back-up pairs in his rucksack.
As a Forward Observer, Barry had three jobs he did to help the company commander: 1. He was responsible for spotting the enemy and directing offensive fire toward them from large artillery often situated many miles away; 2. He was responsible for calling for more support when his company was under fire; and, most importantly in the pre-GPS days, 3. He was responsible for making sure the company knew where it was. To accomplish the last job, a marking round from the large artillery was exploded in the air at the coordinates near where Barry thought they were. Then adjustments would be made if necessary.
A complete physical exam was required when a soldier was discharged. During his, Barry dutifully read the eye chart—successfully—with his glasses on. However, his inability to see even the large E without his glasses caused the doctor to exclaim, “You were a Forward Observer?!?!? You can’t see!”
JoAnne P. Miller