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Liberty Wing reservists meet Medal of Honor recipients
Two Medal of Honor recipients, Marine Col. Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (right), and Army 1st Lt. Brian M. Thacker, answer questions from the audience of approximately 50 reservists Oct. 14, 2012, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. One of the audience members asked the men to give their perspectives about how the military has changed over the past 25 years and how it has progressed. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erika Brooke)
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Dover AFB reservists meet Medal of Honor recipients

Posted 10/24/2012   Updated 10/25/2012 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Joe Yanik

10/24/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Two Medal of Honor recipients met with approximately 50 Airmen for an open forum question and answer session Oct. 14, 2012, at the 512th Operations Group auditorium here.

The two distinguished Vietnam War veterans, Marine Col. Harvey C. Barnum Jr. and Army 1st Lt. Brian M. Thacker, addressed what they said is one of the most important strengths today's military possesses.

"We have the best joint trained force ever," said Barnum, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve Affairs under the George W. Bush administration. "The Guard and Reserve came out of the background and are part of the team. I just think the military force we have is the strongest ever, because we are one team, one fight."

Barnum added the challenge for military leadership today is to maintain the close collaboration among active-duty, Reserve and Guard components.

Barnum and Thacker then discussed several topics they said were important challenges that need to be confronted in today's military: suicide, sexual assault, care for injured veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder and employment for veterans who have separated from the military.

Thacker said suicide has always been an issue for Veterans Affairs, where he had spent his career before retiring in 2002.

"But, we've met every challenge head-on, and that is the reason the military is called on all the time to do anything," said Barnum. "We're the only ones who are trained, with the leadership, with the discipline."

In attendance was Maj. Scott Kissler, a C-5 Galaxy aircraft commander and flight evaluator with the 709th Airlift Squadron. He said he had never before heard Barnum and Thacker speak.

"I think they had some very good words of wisdom to pass along to all of us who are fighting today's wars," said Kissler, who has flown numerous missions in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. "Their experiences, I think, help and guide us with what we go through."

"It has been a heavy and hard lift," said Thacker about the role the Reserve has played in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I hope it's over before too long. Thank you for the time you've put in."

When not visiting military bases, the distinguished visitors speak to non-military audiences
as well.

"I believe the future of our country lies in the hands of our youth," Barnum said. "They are the future leaders."

He and Thacker visit schools around the country promoting a character development program that emphasizes life-long skills such as self-expression through writing.

"(Writing) is a fundamental skill that will enable you to go to many different career paths," said Thacker. "And, kids need to understand that."

Before Barnum and Thacker left the Q and A session to attend the retirement ceremony of a friend, Master Sgt. Anthony Boyle, a 709th AS flight engineer, they described the wartime circumstances that led to them receiving their medals.

To hear the account of actions taken by Thacker that led to him receiving the MoH, click here.  

To hear the account of actions taken by Barnum that led to him receiving the MoH, click here.

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