By Capt. Francisco Polzin, ISECMarch 11, 2013
Sixty years after his capture by the Chinese during the Korean War, Sgt. William Travis Barker was laid to rest by his family with full military honors in August. He had been captured during a decisive battle fought less than five months after the North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea.
Pamela Nicholson, a U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command employee, is very familiar with this story -- Barker was her uncle.
Barker was reported missing, Dec. 1, 1950. He was an Army medic assigned to the 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, during the Battle of the Ch'ongch'on near Kunu-ri, North Korea.
"He wouldn't leave the wounded Soldiers, and so he was captured with them," said Nicholson.
Barker was sent to Prisoner of War Camp No. 5 in Pyoktong, North Korea. His fellow prisoners, who were later released, confirmed his death had occurred Feb. 18, 1951.
Barker's remains were held along with other unidentified remains at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. On April 25, 2012, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base, Del., identified his remains. These agencies confirmed his identity by dental records match, DNA analysis and other forensic methods. His sisters, Nicholson's mother and aunt, provided the samples for the DNA analysis. Nearly four months later on June 30, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office reported malnutrition as his cause of death.
On Aug. 15, 2012, Barker's four remaining siblings, along with their families, laid him to rest with full military honors at the Central Texas State Veterans' Cemetery in Killeen, Texas. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and numerous decorations in recognition of his meritorious service.
While describing her patriotic uncle, Nicholson revealed her uncle had more than one enlistment.
"The first one was when he was 17," she said. "He enlisted in the Air Force, and when my grandmother found out, she made him get out. So, when he turned 18, he decided to go into the Army and make a better life for his family."
Barker, the oldest of 11 siblings, was born in Rockwall, Texas, on June 2, 1929, and would have been 83-years-old this year. Although he did not survive the Korean War, Barker's memory lives on through his family and his honorable military service.