A Quiet Place

On a hot July morning in 1998, Vietnam veteran Jerry Barker leaned on the stern railing of the General Nelson M. Walker and stared into the water of Virginia’s James River. He was shielded from the bright sun by the steel overhead of the ship’s main deck. Large steel vertical girders around the stern created gigantic “picture windows” in this almost outdoor “room.”

In 1967 Barker, then twenty, with his 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry comrades, were on the crowded troopship Walker going to war. “It was full of people,” he remembered, “always people, wherever you went.”

Before long Jerry found a personal, quiet space at the ship’s stern. “At night there was nothing neater than the dark with a zillion stars,” he recalled. “And you’d hear a ‘swrrrrrrr’ sound, going through the water. (The ship’s two propellers were just below his quiet place where he again stood during the 1998 visit to the ship.) It was one of those places you could get away to and be by yourself. This was the perfect spot.”

The veteran paused on the Walker’s main deck at the end of his visit to the rusting ship, lost in his thoughts.

“She took me to the most significant thing that ever happened in my lifetime,” he finally said. “She’s the one that took me there.”

Jerry became the chief of police in Indianapolis, Indiana, and serves as a director of the Vietnam Graffiti Project.

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Exhibit Schedules

    Part of the Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam is currently at the New York Historical Society in Manhatten through April 22, 2018. Information about the full Vietnam exhibit is available here

    Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam will be open at the USS Kidd Memorial in Baton Rouge, LA, from October 27, 2017 through February 28, 2018.