You see, Woogie is a dog – Barker’s dog. They live within a stone’s throw of the point, sharing an apartment with Hal’s brother, Ted and his dog, Snoopy. They walk along the lake twice daily, and it was on one of those walks a month or so ago that Woogie had a chat with London, Brian Fears’ dog.
Fears, who is suing the city over the parking plans, learned of the city’s intentions because of Hal. Hal knew of the plans because he is an intelligent, experienced, feisty fellow.
Barker is the one who filed an open records request, getting copies of all the documents detailing the city’s designs on Winfrey Point, the same documents used by savewinfreypoint.com.
“When people talk to me, they think I’m stupid because of how I express myself. I’m sort of like Columbo or Forrest Gump,” he said. “There is a lot more to me than most people know.”
But a chat with Barker (he promises he’ll “be brief”) is like peeling an onion. There is layer after layer of stories of the places he’s been, things he’s done and people he has known that leave you wondering if there is anything this guy hasn’t done.
Any conversation with Barker or his brother can quickly wander into their consuming life’s work and legacy: the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Many of you have been there. Hal Barker is the man who brought it into being against enormous odds and tribulation and continues to aid Korean vets and their families through koreanwar.org.
But you will never see his name mentioned anywhere connected with the memorial. Between dishonest men and guaranteeing the financial stability of the World War II Memorial, Barker has been blackballed by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Hal Barker was born overlooking Pearl Harbor and grew up as a “military brat.” The younger son of Marine helicopter pilot Lt. Colonel Edward L. Barker and his Canadian-born mother, Gerry, Barker lived the military life in a very patriarchal, austere household.
He was a very smart kid. Involved in electronics since he was six, Barker got his Ham radio license and by age 12 could tap 30 words of code a minute. He was so proficient at it that the Marines at Camp Lejeune would let him into their communications vans to use their equipment.
“My favorite all-time birthday present was a 30-foot telephone pole,” he laughed, “so I could have my own antenna in my backyard. I built my own equipment and knew people all over the world. Almost all my friends were engineers.”
The electronics wiz would later become a self-taught database programmer and creator of one of the oldest, continuously operating, privately-held websites in Texas and perhaps the Southwest.
Koreanwar.org was originally created in February 1995. Domain names were not even available to the public, yet, and Barker wrote his own computer code by hand.
Today, those skills combine with his passion for the Korean War to provide what may be the most comprehensive, detailed website on the Internet that daily serves individuals affected by The Forgotten War.
“We deal with hard things every day – lost loved ones, agent orange, mental illness, grief… ” he said of the people that petition him for help through the website.
He has been a beach bum in the southwest of France, a doughnut maker in Heidelberg, an accomplished carpenter, an NC State History degree graduate, a photojournalist in North Carolina during the civil rights movement, an advocate before Congressional hearings, his own lawyer (who won) and the man who solved a murder the military tried to cover up.
He has worked with Clint Eastwood, Ross Perot, Reba McEntire, Chuck Norris, 4-Star generals and foreign heads of government.
And that’s the short list.
Barker tried twice to get into the military like his dad and brother who was in the Air Force, achieved Airman of the Year in Europe and later became a top level photo intelligence analyst. But he was stamped 4F mainly on account of his 20/450 eyesight and asthma, despite the fact that in all other ways he was in top physical shape and asking to join the military during Vietnam.
He is also a writer. His accounts of the real story of the war memorial as well as his visit to Heartbreak Ridge in the Korean DMZ are compelling and vivid.
He has a children’s book fully formed in his head. This “quirky, funny, crazy script” needs only to leak out onto the paper and find an illustrator. Conceived 10 years ago as he mulled over the carnage of 9-11, he formed a story about Woogie, making him the general who marshals his animal friends (both wild and domestic) to defend Winfrey Point against an army of rats from Plano.
The rats launch a naval invasion in a flotilla of Styrofoam cups like the ones he saw filling the creek by the lake. They want the point for themselves.
The title? “The Battle of Winfrey Point.”
Last week, as events developed on an almost-hourly basis, Hal and Ted looked each other and realized they’d heard this story before.
“Holy ****! It’s the book! And the Arboretum’s the rats!” he laughed.
Barker is a man driven by principle. His $10 donation to start the war memorial fund was fueled by the insistence that those veterans be honored for their sacrifice.
His tenacious pursuit of the truth that uncovered murder and deception was fed by a deep sense of justice.
Knowing that a better way was not only possible but required, he helped create the 911 markers you’ve seen all around the lake.
And a determination to keep Winfrey Point as it is prodded him to draw his line in the sand.
“So, you can imagine, when these people do this stuff here (referring to the city and Arboretum) it doesn’t phase me. I’ve come up against a lot tougher issues,” he said with a shrug and a wry smile under his mustache.
“Once I decide to get a hold of something, I stick with it. So, don’t get me started,” he said.
So ask him about Korea or surfing or swindlers in Washington.
He’ll be brief…