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Draper Journal

Stories of service and sacrifice at Veterans Day ceremony

Dec 02, 2022 12:35PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Barry Skinner was only 18 when he signed up for the Army. He’d just graduated from Ogden High School and was looking for work. “There wasn’t a lot of jobs around at that time. I had three older brothers in the service, and I thought it was a family thing to join,” he said.

It all happened quickly. He contacted the recruiter and the next day he signed up at Fort Douglas where he underwent a physical and took his oath. (Because it was during the Cold War, he committed to three years of active duty followed by three years in reserve). Almost immediately, he was sent via train to Fort Ord, California for two months of basic training followed by two months of schooling. He studied to be a mechanic and his first assignment took him north of Chicago to Fort Sheridan. There, he interviewed and was chosen to be chauffeur for the Post Commander. “He was a fine gentleman, very honest, very sincere and strictly military.” He held that “lucky” position for one year. Then Skinner got orders to report to Germany. The Post Commander offered to do paperwork to keep him at Fort Sheridan, but Skinner felt obligated to go abroad.

“Beautiful country, beautiful people,” Skinner said of Germany. Once again, he was a driver, this time for the commanding officers. Though he learned only a little bit of the language, he said driving in Germany was easy because the signs were self-explanatory.

“The Berlin Wall was up and we were always on alert,” Skinner recounted. “There was a lot of contention between the Soviet Union and the U.S. at that time.”

When his assignment in Germany was complete, his time was extended because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. “That’s the highest alert our country has even been on during our whole Cold War. It was a very contentious time. I think a lot of citizens don’t realize it, but we had numerous ships stationed all around Cuba because it was only 90 miles from Florida and it was a dire threat to American citizens. Cooler heads prevailed between the Soviet Union and our President Kennedy and they resolved it within two weeks, but it was on the verge of a Third World War.”

Now 81, Skinner has never regretted that decision to join the Armed Forces. “If I had it my way, every kid would be obligated to join the military or Peace Corps to do something for his country. It gives you a chance to get away from your parents, to be on your own, and to find out what adulthood is all about.”

Skinner has lived in Draper since 1965, when he left the service. He’s volunteered for the last 21 years with the American Legion Post 140, mostly helping with military funerals. They did more than 120 of them last year. He also volunteers to put up flags for Draper’s Veterans Day ceremony. “He’s been such a big help to us over the years,” said David Wilks, the city’s community events manager.

Tyrone Foster spoke at Draper’s Veterans Day ceremony about being a Gold Star son. Foster was just 5 years old in 1987 when his dad, Vernon Tyrone Foster, was killed along with 36 other sailors when an Iraqi fighter jet fired two missiles into the USS Stark.

“My father didn’t come home that day, but my mother made sure his good deeds did,” Foster said. He recounted how his mother made sure to share stories about his dad with him and how she took him to military events so that he could gain an appreciation for his father, veterans and those in the military. Foster distinctly remembers meeting his father’s recruiter. “Your dad saved my life,” the recruiter told Foster.

When Foster and his brother were older, their mom decided to share the love letters her husband had written to her. “They showed his vulnerability, his commitment to his family and this country,” he said. Foster also found a list of his dad’s goals. “That was like a road map and guide for my brother and I.”

Foster said that learning about his dad’s life, military service, and meeting other members of the military inspired him to be a dad and to use his words to empower people. “I’m grateful for each one of you,” he told the service members and their families at the ceremony.

Skinner said he does get a bit choked up every Veterans Day. “I think about all these people, prisoners of war, or people who gave their lives,” he said. “Anyone who serves their country, they’re real patriots.”