Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

Encourages Veterans to stay busy, have a hobby


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The government sent John Barbazon’s next of kin two telegrams in 1966. The first regretted to inform them that their son had been killed in action. The second said he was improving.

A member of the 101st Airborne, Barbazon (pictured above) was part of a squad that spent most of their time on the move, up and down mountains – and rarely in the company of other units.

Barbazon’s carved chess pieces.

“We just got orders and kept going from one place to another,” he said, sitting at a workbench in a shop at the back of his four-acre property.

Barbazon isn’t entirely still. He continues to move from one place to the next as he recalls his experience in Vietnam.

“I got shot and I was lying on the ground, my right arm mostly gone. I stick this finger in a sucking chest wound right here to stop the bleeding,” he said, holding up a thick index finger and jamming it into a space just below his right shoulder.

Each time he repeats the motion, the finger hits the same spot, to the same wound.

“I was on the ground,” he continued. “My cousin called out to me, told me to crawl to him. I crawled thirty to forty feet to a medic. I found out later my cousin had died in a car wreck. He wasn’t even there but if I hadn’t seen him call to me, I would have died right there, bled to death.”

Cussed out medic in Cajun

Soon after reaching the medic, he was placed in a body bag being mistaken as having been killed in action. The medics carrying him dropped him.

Later, one of the medics visited Barbazon in the field hospital.

“He (the medic) said that if I had died, I’d have gone to hell because I called him things he’d never heard of, in Cajun. I was cussing him out for dropping me.”

“I’ve been a very lucky person.”

Barbazon laughs at the memory now, but he spent a month in the field hospital before being shipped to California, where surgeries saved his arm and leg. Now he walks with a slight limp, but he doesn’t let it do more than slow his walking speed.

Happy and busy

“I hadn’t talked about Vietnam until eight or 10 years ago. I was in Ocala, Florida, at the VA hospital, and I was talking to a doctor I’d been seeing. She said, ‘John, I need you to talk to a friend of mine.’ So she takes me to a psychiatrist. And I’m glad.

“A lot of Veterans need to do this. I found out things I was doing that I was doing in Vietnam, like carrying a knife in my pocket for protection and going to the top row in a movie theater with my back against the wall. I was on guard too much and needed to relax.

“Talking to the psychiatrist was the best thing I’ve done, and I talked to him for about four years. Now I know I was really dysfunctional and didn’t realize it. Veterans today, they need to get out and find out. They need to talk to somebody and they have to listen.

“He told me, you’re not cured. I’m not going to cure you. I’m just going to make you aware of what you’re doing so you can be more relaxed. That’s why I enjoy doing this woodworking and that’s why I say Veterans need to talk to somebody – and they need to get a hobby.”

There’s something they can do

“If they are sitting home disabled, there’s something they can do. I don’t care if it’s going fishing. You’ve got to do something,” Barbazon said.

Barbazon’s sister has the telegrams, and he has a house full of delicately cut artwork that will soon include a dome clock that he’s spent the last six months working on for six hours a day.

“I’m very lucky. I’ve been a lucky person.”


Rosaire Bushey is a public affairs officer for the Salem VA Health Care System and a retired U.S. Air Force Veteran.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Bill Lanza    

    as a fellow Vietnam vet, I salute you for your bravery, good sense, and intelligence.

  2. Wolf Spring    

    Mr. Barbazon,
    Wolf and Cindy from Ruskin FL here. I am also a Vietnam vet and have a passion for art, so much so that we have opened an art gallery here. (De Stijl Art Gallery)
    One project we have in planning is for active members and veterans to show their works and sell them without any gallery charges or commissions.
    This would be planned to coincide with Veterans Day Thursday 11 Nov 2021 and each subsequent Veterans Day thereafter.
    The gallery would then host these works through two weekends.
    Not knowing where specifically you are located this might not be feasible for you yet there may be others who might see a venue for their art or craft.

  3. Kim Ferg    

    Mr. Barbizon: Salute! My grandfather was a woodcarver but we dont know his name. My classmate is a woodburner & I hope to carve eventually. I am an Army vet, come from a family of vets & a veteran homeless advocate of 25 yrs. I serve homeless vets now & get them on their feet financially & otherwise. My cause is people & pets & I own a service dog who is priceless. Hats off to you!!-
    My father wasin Korean War, stepdad served in Cuba. I did peacetime Korea.

  4. timothy c. fear    

    AS A COMBAT WOUNDED RVN VET,,,,RETIRED AN LIVING IN THE P.I.,,,EVERY SIX MONTHS I GO TO MANILA TO THE V.A. FOR A CHECK UP,,,,WITH THE LOCK DOWN WE BEEN KEEPING IN TOUCH BY PHONE,,,ITS NOT AS GOOD AS FACE TO FACE,,,BUT ITS BETTER THAN NOT SEEING ANY ONE,,JUST WANT TO THANK ALL THE DOCTORS,,AND STAFF THAT CARE FOR US OLD VETS,,,MY WIFE IS MY LOCAL CARE GIVER…SHE SAVED MY LIFE,,,GETTING ME TO THE V.A. IN THE FIRST PLACE,,,BE GLAD WHEN I CAN SEE THE DOCTOR IN PERSON AGAIN….THANK YOU ALL AT THE V.A.

  5. Dieter W. Schors    

    Nice story. Keep up the great carving.

  6. William Coyne    

    I served in the Army as a dental hygienist from 1972 to 1975. Never saw combat, but cleaned the teeth of many who did. What extraordinary soldiers passed through the Fort Richardson dental clinic. I did not serve side by side with them in the numerous battles they encountered, but I was given the utmost privilege of their company. Truly magnificent men and women whose bearing was courageous with underlying fierceness blended with civility and humility. Towering examples of humanity at its finest. I joined the military to get the GI Bill for college. The Army gave me an education all on its own, and better prepared me for university. The best decision I ever made in my life, not to mention the super generous VA benefits that have been given to me over the many years. What a generous nation we live in, what a generous government, what a generous people.

  7. Connected Warriors    

    Thank you for your strength to share your story. As a clinical director for Connected Warriors, a new counseling center in Boca Raton, FL, I was wondering if I may share your words with clients when appropriate? Your strength will give them strength.
    Thanks for not giving up. I am curious, did you have this artistic talent prior to your event? Stay well.
    Donna Frydman,Ph.D., LMHC CAP
    954-278-3764

  8. clara mcneil    

    Thank you so much for sharing. My husband is a Vietnam veteran. We are so happy for this program to help the Veterans with this issue. Vietnam was no joke to our Hero Solieders.

Comments are closed.