Wartime can be a very scary time for individuals and nations, but for children, who do not understand the horrors of war, it’s a time of confusion. My mother was 7 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked, so she does not remember the fear and anger that raced through the country; all she remembers is that things were suddenly very different. Where did Uncle Cecil and Uncle Folley go? What is war? Why are those people mad at us? These were just a few of many thoughts that ran through a young girls mind during the years of World War II.
Cecil Barber was a 19-year-old young man who wanted to serve his country and fight for freedom. He joined the Army in 1943 and, after quickly rising to the rank of corporal, joined the paratroopers. Folley Barber, Cecil’s brother, was older and had achieved the rank of captain. Uncle Cecil was the type of man that would do anything that was asked of him. He never wanted to take the easy way out and was always willing to go the extra mile to see that things were done right. Uncle Folley was a born leader.
He was also the smartest man in the family, according to my mother. He was the commander of an infantry battery in Europe. Just talking to my mother about these two brave men it’s very easy to tell that she is very proud of them. During the winter of 1944 Cecil was participating in a mission that was part of the D-Day preparation. He had just jumped out of his plane and was on his way down when he was shot. Although his injury was serious, it was not life threatening. He was taken to a field hospital were he spent time recovering.
Somehow, Folley had received word that his brother had been shot and was in the hospital. He was able to get to the hospital that his brother had been in, but he was to late. As soon as Uncle Cecil was able to walk and carry a rifle, he volunteered to go back into the fight. Only days before Folley made it to the hospital, Cecil headed back into action, never to see his brother again. He had been assigned to an infantry platoon that needed all the help they could get. He was killed in action shortly thereafter. Folley managed to survive the war and returned home in 1945.
I actually had the opportunity to meet him at a family reunion in 1984. Sadly, he died of heart failure in 1992. WWII was a very tough time for the entire world. I sincerely believe that anyone who puts on an armed forces uniform is a hero. However, when someone gives their life in defense of their country, that person is the greatest hero of all. My hero is buried in an American Military Cemetery; Corporal Cecil Barber is laid to rest at the Henry Chapelle American Military Cemetery just outside the village of Henri-Chapelle in Belgium.