A Vietnam War veteran recently presented A Co. 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), with a gift.
The gift was the return of the company’s Vietnam War guidon and a physical training T-shirt from the 1960s.
Weaver Barkman, Vietnam veteran of A Co., 1-187th Inf. Regt., recently came into possession of the old company guidon after one of his battle buddies died.
“It’s preserving the legacy of the 1-187th,” Barkman said. “Our casualty rate was really high while we were in Vietnam. I thought this was a way for the new generation to understand their heritage and have a physical reminder of us. It felt like the right thing to do and like my tour is finally done now. I brought it home.”
Barkman joined the Army in 1964 to go Airborne. After completing basic training and jump school, he was assigned to A Co., 1-187th Airborne Infantry, 11th Air Assault Division, Fort Benning, Georgia, which was later redesignated to A Co., 1-187th Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division.
“Our training was extensive and focused,” Barkman said. “I think the 1-187th was the closest thing the Army had to an Airborne Ranger unit during that time. Our unit then changed colors from the 11th Air Assault Division to the 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) in June 1965.”
Shortly thereafter the unit deployed to Vietnam from Savannah, Georgia, on the U.S.N.S. Geiger, he said.
After the unit landed in An Khe, Vietnam, the Soldiers earned Air Assault badges, and the unit was redesignated to the 12th Calvary Regiment and then back to the 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile). Regardless of all the changes the unit experienced, Barkman said, he and his battle buddies always considered themselves part of the 1-187th Inf. Regt.
Later that year, Barkman had several combat experiences including the Battle of Ia Drang in November 1965. But the worst was ahead of them when on Feb. 23, 1966, the unit was ambushed by the 18th North Vietnamese Regiment and experienced heavy casualties. The unit went on to fight in Operation Lincoln, a campaign to root out North Vietnamese and Viet Cong that began Match 25 and ended April 8, 1966.
“We survived, that was the biggest battle for our company,” Barkman said. “I think I came home at the end of the summer in 1966. So, I came home and tried to live happily ever after. You know what, I never got a scratch over there. In my entire platoon, there were only two of us who didn’t get a Purple Heart.”
Barkman left the Army in 1967 and returned home to Arizona. Barkman retired as a deputy sheriff from the Pima County Sheriff’s Office in Tuscan, after 25 years of service and in 1995 he went on to open his own business, Barkman and Associates, a private investigation and crime scene reconstruction company.
“Our company commander at Fort Benning was big into physical training, he was a world class athlete,” Barkman said. “Back then, we had to pay for a custom-made T-shirt for PT. I kept that shirt forever, I had quite an attachment to it. It was the only shirt I had like that.”
He kept the shirt displayed in his home, and while attending the funeral of a battle buddy in 2018, Barkman was presented with the A Co., 1-187th company guidon.
“The company guidon was displayed in our orderly room,” Barkman said. “When we changed colors and became the 1st Cav. it didn’t really sit well with us. We wanted to be the 1-187th, so my squad leader and his best buddy liberated it from the orderly room.”
His then-squad leader was Sgt. Floyd M. “Zeke” Horton and his best friend was then-Cpl. Ralph Newell. Horton kept the guidon in his bag with him in Vietnam, until he was killed in action March 30, 1966, during Operation Lincoln. Newell was seriously wounded during battle.
Horton’s personal property, including the guidon, was shipped to Newell’s Family home in Gainesville, Georgia.
After recovering from his wounds, Newell was discharged. He had possession of the guidon until his death in 2018. The company guidon was then handed down to Barkman.
“It dawned on me, I’m getting old too and I decided I wanted the guidon to go home,” Barkman said. “It needed to get back to the company. So, I started looking for ways to bring it back.”
His search led him to Capt. Hampton Moore, commander of A Co, 1-187th Inf. Regt., and First Sgt. Jonathan Peters. As luck would have it, 1-187th was in Arizona on a support mission.
“We wanted him to come down to visit the company, but because of COVID-19 we decided not to,” Moore said. “Having the guidon that went to Vietnam and then was carried back home and then gifted to our company, we definitely want to preserve this history for as long as we can. It’s important to us to stay connected to our history and the Soldiers who came before us.”
Moore and Peters visited Barkman, where he presented them with the guidon and the framed T-shirt. Moore and Peters gave Barkman a company coin and current unit physical training shirt on behalf of A Co, 1-187th Inf. Regt., and an invitation to meet the entire company in the future.
“It was definitely one of the most interesting experiences in my career,” Peters said. “There is just so much history we are able to take back to the company, it was a pretty special experience. He told us some of his stories from Vietnam, it was really interesting to hear about his experiences.”
The items will be brought back to the company’s headquarters where they will be displayed for everyone to see.
“Some of the Soldiers have seen it, but we’re waiting for the opportunity when the situation with COVID-19 settles so we can bring everyone into a formation and share the story and history,” Moore said.
Barkman said he feels he has finally completed his mission, 55 years after he first stepped foot in Vietnam.
“It was the only place for it to go,” Barkman said. “I felt like I had done my duty, if that makes sense. I felt like I have finished my mission. To see them and be with them, these are my descendants almost. It felt really good to give it back, and hopefully the guys will understand where they came from.”