LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - KCBD would like to honor retired U.S. Navy veteran Jack Barnes as this week's "Hometown Hero." While he lives in Amarillo, Jack has made it his mission to honor local hometown heroes - and heroes across the country.
On Wednesday afternoon, Jack walked silently around the Lubbock War Memorial, taking in the names carved in the stone and reflecting on the fallen soldiers. At times he touched the engravings, and held back tears.
"I know their families," he said, pointing at the soldiers names under those lost in Iraq.
He knows so many of these brave men and women because of his years as a Navy recruiter, but before that, he was the one at war.
Jack was drafted with his best friend Lynn Buzzard during the Vietnam War. Jack stayed behind a few months to help his dad with the farm, while Lynn was sent to training.
"Sadly, he was killed in action. He was only there 19 days," Jack said. "All the kids who grew up with him served as pallbearers. It was hard for all of us because Lynn was the first casualty and everyone knew I was going to Vietnam next."
The loss of his best friend sparked a deep passion to protect our country, a passion that grew over the years. After Vietnam, Jack served as a Navy recruiter for 16 years before retiring in 1995, but his desire to honor those brave men and women who serve our country kept growing.
"This yellow ribbon I have on is the symbol for supporting our troops. I've had the privilege and honor of wearing this ribbon on my collar every day for the last ten years. That's how important it is to me," Jack said.
It's so important that he has pledged his life to honoring anyone who steps up to join the military.
"That's our duty," he said.
And it's a duty he doesn't take lightly. As president of the non-profit organization America Supports You Texas, he helps organize several events each year to honor heroes.
On national Armed Forces Day, May 19th, Jack will help put on the "Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Service" banquet in Amarillo. He says it's the biggest event of its kind in Texas.
He also helps organize care packages to send overseas to troops in Afghanistan.
"Last year we spent over $10,000 alone on postage," he said.
In October – for the first time – Jack is bringing Honor Flights to Lubbock, where World War II veterans will get the opportunity to take a free trip to visit the war memorial in Washington D.C.
"That memorial they paid for in blood and with much sacrifice. There were over 400,000 casualties, and let's honor these WWII veterans with that trip of a lifetime," Jack said. "They defended that red, white and blue flag. If it were not for the WWII veterans - the greatest generation - would we be here today? We owe these men and women a debt of gratitude."
Whether it's WWII veterans or those still at war, retired navy veteran Jack Barnes is unwavering in his mission to honor our heroes.
"We are the land of the free because we're the home of the brave men and women who serve and sacrifice so much for our country," he said.
To learn more about how you can help with the Honor Flights or any of the other events (click here).