Serving in the Marines was a lifelong dream for Barry Barrineau. And as he ages, he believes more so that the honor was all his.
Today, he's in his 80s. But those days back in the 1940s are still very vivid.
He wears Marine regalia, flies the American and United States Marine Corp flags in his front yard and openly tells his stories of wartime. Barrineau is a Purple Heart recipient and quite proud of it.
However, through the years, that medal, presented to him by President Harry S. Truman was lost. Others disappeared too.
But Barrineau got the surprise of a lifetime earlier this month.
Sgt. Chantelle Miller, under the command of Capt. Brandon Mokris of the Charleston I-I 4th LSB, C Co I-I Staff in North Charleston set in motion an effort to replace the medals. after Mokris got word of the need to replace the medals.
Barrineau has never been to a Marine Corp Ball. Sgt. Miller went to her Captain – Capt. Brandon Mokris with the request – and the two of them took it from there – inviting Barrineau as a distinguished guest. He was escorted by close friends and neighbors Treg and Nina Monty.
Then later upon hearing about his medals being lost/stolen – Sgt. Miller put into motion the process of having them replaced and honoring him with a presentation. “Besides being real life heroes everyday in serving our country – they are the heroes of this story with Barry,” said Nina.
A future Marine
In 1941 Barry Barrineau was a bat boy for the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. They played at College Park during spring training. There he met some baseball greats like Ted Williams Vince and Dominick Damagio and Jimmy Fox. Back in those days, Ted Williams would pat young Barrineau on the head and tell him he was going to make a fine ball player one day. Barrineau laughed and said “No, I'm going to be a Marine.” He was about 15 at the time, he said.
Ted Williams would reply, “If the war goes on, I am going to enlist as well.”
Barrineau eventually read about Williams going in as a pilot. Barrineau himself went in as a private. Williams enlisted during the prime of his career. It was a time when most men old enough joined the ranks.
Barrineau's father warned him to think long and hard about joining. He simply responded, “I have. I have been thinking about being a Marine all of my life.”
His father cried the day he dropped him off for the train. “It was the first time I ever saw him cry,” Barrineau said.
It was his first time out of South Carolina and Barrineau reveled in the beauty of the countryside. He was just 16 years old and it was 1943.
During those early days of enlistment, one of Barrineau's most poignant memories is of his drill instructor telling him and his fellow recruits, “You left your momma at home and she is gonna stay at home. I'm your momma and your daddy now.”
And with that, he busied himself memorizing his serial number and his rifle number.
“I knew a lot more than the other boots,” Barrineau said. “I used to practice being a Marine. I wanted to be one so bad because the girls loved Marines and a man in uniform.”
Once onboard ship, heading to his destination, Barrineau was given a sea bag and notified that he would be with the First Marine Division heading toward Peleliu - the worst battle in the Pacific. Assigned to the reserves for that unit, he was sent first to Pavuvu which served as temporary home to the U.S. 1st Marine Division after their action on Cape Gloucester and again after their action on Peleliu during the conflict against Japan.
He was never called to fight at Peleliu and when the few survivors of that battle returned to Pavuvu, “they were put out because we were in their tents,” he said.
Troops were sent to Guadalcanal for maneuvers and on to Okinawa. It was the last battle of World War II at that time.
It was there that Barrineau was wounded.
That May 16 the Marines faced an intense battle. They had the island split with Army and Marine troops for ultimate capture. A path had been paved down a hill to bring the wounded in. It was also safe haven for Barrineau and his comrades to rage battle.
The idea is that incoming would not likely fall down into their enclave.
But it did, tagging Barrineau in the right hip and back. And before he could be medevaced out, he received more shrapnel to his jaw the next day.
The order was written up as receiving shrapnel and he was sent to the Guam Hospital.
Barrineau praised the nurses, staff and Salvation Army personnel who took care of him. He even remembered a happy time in that hospital when his uncle Harold Barrineau and friend Buddy Brown, both Navy enlisted, stopped in to see him. “They had to call in the MP's to quiet us down,” he said.
He eventually was shipped out on the USS Morton.
The effects of those shrapnel hits still bothered him, causing him to pass out unexpectedly.
He was evacuated to a hospital in San Francisco to better determine what was wrong. Doctors there took a closer look at the x-rays. What they found was a bullet lodged in Barrineau's spine that no one noticed before. It was determined that it had to have come from a sniper.
His next stop was the Charleston Naval Hospital. However, doctors there refused to remove the bullet. The surgery was too risky. They did however repair his knee that was injured during maneuvers.
You see, Barrineau never let on to anyone that he had sustained a knee injury. He wrapped it and limped on, not wanting to leave his outfit. “I wanted to stay with my men and earn some medals,” he said.
Doctors at Camp Lagune, and doctors in Philadelphia also refused to remove the bullet lodged in his spine. His final stop was Quantico. Doctors there agreed to do it. Barrineau was warned, “if you live, you will experience back pain in your later years.”
Barrineau recuperated and it didn't take long for the nurses at Quanitco to take to him. They began asking him who he knew at the White House. He was told to put on his full dress greens because the White House was sending a car for him.
Upon arrival, President Harry S. Truman ceremonially presented him with a Purple Heart.
Barrineau was eventually sent to a casual company where troops stood by waiting for assignment. “The war was ending and the government was trying to push me out of the military. But I didn't want out,” he said. “God bless Ms. Moore from Rivers High School who taught me the typewriter. I was able to out type every Marine there and was able to stay on in an administrative capacity.”
Upon Barrineau's exit from the Marine Corp. he became a police officer with the City of Charleston and also worked as a firefighter. However, the chronic back pain prevented him for doing the job to his best ability. He was hired to work at the Air Force base under supervisor and lifetime Mount Pleasant resident Tom Lauder. He retired after 35 years at the age of 65 on his birthday.
“I loved the Marine Corps. I probably would have gotten killed had I not gotten injured and stayed in,” he said.
“I would have gone to Vietnam and loved it. Dying ain't nothing. What's everything is the values and tradition of the Marine Corps honor code.”
Today, Barrineau is still on duty too. He faithfully sits out in front of his house each day, watching over the children who attend Mount Pleasant Academy. His home is directly across the street where he proudly flies the American and Marine Corps flags and waves as proudly and mightily as his flags do.
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