World War II veterans honored in Kannapolis
By Hugh Fisherhfisher@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó The stories of two men who fought in World War II reminded the audience at Thursday’s Charlotte Symphony Orchestra concert of those who fought, and died, defending freedom.
Capt. Charles “Ed” Barrier, a former U.S. Army Air Corps pilot, was honored for his service during a break between acts at the concert.
Barrier, 87, flew 30 missions in B-17 bombers over Germany during 1944.
“He doesn’t like to be called a hero,” Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills told the crowd.
But Barrier was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his leadership and bravery in action.
He flew B-17s for the 8th Air Force at a time when three out of four bomber pilots were being killed in the line of duty.
“Like many, he enlisted as a result of the attack of December 7, 1941,” Mills said. “He wanted to fly.”
After his 30th mission, Mills worked as an instructor prior to his honorable discharge in 1945.
Barrier didn’t want to come to the stage and speak, but, through Mills’ remarks, he urged the crowd to remember the men and women currently serving the nation.
The audience of more than 12,000 gave Barrier a standing ovation.
When asked what he hoped the audience would take away from the night’s show, Barrier said he hoped they’d appreciate their freedom.
“I hope they leave here with the great feeling of being free people,” he said. “I hope they feel a sense of pride.”
Another man shared his story of a father he never knew, one of thousands who died overseas.
Jim Hodgens’ father died in the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 20, 1944, at the age of 26. Hodgens was one year, one month and one day old. His father had only seen him once.
The Bulge was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
“Hitler attacked with 250,000 men. The Allies were outnumbered 10 to one,” Hodgens said.
Last year, Hodgens visited his father’s grave at Henri-Chapelle Cemetery in Belgium, where almost 8,000 American soldiers are buried.
“I couldn’t help but think, ‘Was I worthy of the sacrifice that was made for my freedom, not only by my father but by the other soldiers buried at that cemetery?’ ” he asked.”I don’t think I am.”