When Harold R. Lowe, now 100 years of age, and Henry Barba, now 106, went off to fight in the second World War, thoughts of someday being honored for their service never entered their minds.
The Santa Margarita Senior Center had a full house on Nov. 12, when a crowd gathered to honor Lowe and Barba for their service to our nation and to share in the celebration of their birthdays.
Linda Peterman opened the ceremony, followed by an honor guard presenting the flags. Mariah Allchin sang an emotion-evoking rendition of our national anthem, bringing tears to the eyes of many of those present.
Three certificates of appreciation were presented by 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold: a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congressman Salud Carbajal, a California Legislative Assembly Certificate of Recognition from 35th District Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, and a San Luis Obispo County Certificate of Recognition from Arnold and 1st District Supervisor John Peschong.
Following the presentation, all veterans were asked to come forward to be recognized and given the traditional red "Flanders Field" poppy, presented by Marine Sgt. Tommy Torgerson.
Lowe and Barba began their service in the first months of 1941. Lowe was drafted and Barba enlisted. Both attained the rank of private first class. While they served in vastly different ways, their contributions to this country demonstrate the American spirit of personal sacrifice for the greater good.
As a soldier with the 162nd Regiment, Company C, of the 41st Army, Lowe began his service in Australia. He was later sent to New Guinea where his duties entailed the rigors of being part of a five-man mortar crew. Troops had to contend with poor communications, dense jungles, tropical rains, and snipers during their successful drive to remove the Japanese invaders from the island.
Lowe was granted a furlough to return home for 30 days in June 1944, after which he was to be reassigned in Europe. During the trip home, aboard ship, he suffered a bout of food poisoning and then contracted malaria. A week after arriving back in the United States, Harold married Virginia Cheda on July 1, 1944. Due to the malaria, he was not sent to Europe, instead completing his service in Marysville, California, as a prison guard overseeing German POWs. He was honorably discharged on Sept. 20, 1945.
During the Pacific War campaign, Pfc. Lowe earned several medals: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Defense Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, and a Good Conduct Medal.
Attached to the National Guard Unit, Searchlight Battalion–250th Coast Artillery, Battery G, Barba was sent to Kodiak, Alaska, to defend against possible invasion by the Japanese who had occupied part of the Aleutian Islands.
Barba's assignments included kitchen, latrine, and guard duty. Conditions were bitter and resources scarce in Alaska, where Henry and fellow soldiers lived in "pup tents." An interesting and amazing aspect of this Army encampment was that it was set up to fool the Japanese.
Full-size decoy planes were erected out of wood and paper, and the only thing they had to defend themselves with were wooden mock rifles! Later, when they were given real guns, Barba said he didn't even know how to use one because he had never had an opportunity to practice.
Shortly after Barba was mustered out of the Army and returned home, he received a letter telling him to "prepare for return." This was followed by a letter telling him to "disregard the previous letter."
Following the Santa Margarita ceremony, a delightful and delicious Thanksgiving-themed lunch, blessed by Pastor Paul Bautts, was enjoyed by all. Δ
Elizabeth Beeman wrote this to honor the service of Lowe and Barba. Send comments through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.