Panhandle Veterans Hall of Honor inductees

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Della
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On October 9, 2021, Freedom Museum USA and Pampa’s VFW Post 1657 hosted the 30th Annual Panhandle Veterans Hall of Honor.  Five Panhandle area men who honorably served in the U.S. Army were chosen for recognition for their bravery.  They were: Larry G. Barnett, Kenneth F. Black, COL Michael J. Foote, Everett E. Mann, Oran O. Rake.

Veterans, friends and family joined to celebrated the induction of these men and to pay homage to the men and women of the 26 Texas Panhandle Counties who have distinguished themselves in military service to our country.

As of today, the photos and names of 137 inductees grace the walls in the Waters Holt Room of the Freedom Museum in Pampa. Those inductees include one woman, a WASP Pilot from WWII; four Medal of Honor recipients, three Doolittle Raiders, two survivors of the Bataan Death March, one survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, and many from various other noteworthy battles.  The inductees were servicemen from the Mexican Campaign, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East conflicts in which our warriors still sacrifice their lives. Twenty were killed in action and fifteen suffered the horrors as a Prisoner of War. 

At least sixty-three Purple Hearts were awarded, forty-one Distinguished Flying Crosses, seven Distinguished Service Crosses, two Navy Crosses, seventeen Silver Stars, fifty-five Bronze Stars, twenty-one Combat Infantry Badges, three Combat Action Badges and one Combat Medical Badge. There are more Air Medals and other commendations than can be counted.

The lives of these warriors are not taken lightly and it is with great honor and privilege that they grace the walls of our museum.  Each of the inductees have so much more to their stories than can be told on one small page.  So, the museum is in the process of digitizing the full biographies which have been provided for each of the inductees and information is available to visitors.

If you would like to nominate someone for consideration or simply share the stories of your military family and friends with Freedom Museum USA, send the museum as much information as possible about that person’s time in the military.  Please provide a short biography about their life before and after the service, any supporting documentation such as discharge papers, commendations, journals, letters, etc.  Also, include a photograph while in the service for use should that person be chosen as an inductee.  The submission deadline is March 1 and should you have any questions, please feel free to call the museum at (806) 669-6066.

The following men were honored during the event:

Larry Gene Barnett

Larry Gene Barnett was born 12 July 1947 in Memphis, Texas to Robert L. Barnett and Oleta Frances (Ellis) Barnett. His dad, Robert, served in the US Army as a nurse during WWII. When Barnett was a child, his parents farmed and later moved to Lubbock, Texas.

Barnett attended school in Lubbock and graduated in 1965. He attended Texas Tech University until 1968 when he was drafted into the US Army. Optimistic that he would be able to see some of the US, Barnett’s service with the Army took him immediately to Fort Bliss for basic training, Fort Sill for AIT and then Vietnam.

Barnett was stationed at LZ Debbie outside of Duc Pho. On 2 July 1969, his first night as an Artillery Radio Telephone Operator with Company A, 3d Battalion, 1st Infantry, his unit was overrun by Viet Cong forces after sustaining direct hits by two enemy rocket propelled grenade rounds which wounded several soldiers. Barnett maneuvered toward the casualties while under fire. He silenced the hostile emplacements and began administering first aid to the wounded. He then assisted in moving the casualties to safety.

Again on 13 August 1969, SP4 Barnett was serving as a forward observer on a combat sweep operation northwest of Quang Ngai City, when his Company made contact with a heavily fortified North Vietnamese Army force of undetermined size. Several casualties were sustained during the initial fire fight in an open area exposed to further hostile actions. Barnett realizing that an enemy emplacement had to be silenced before the wounded could be evacuated, immediately assaulted the enemy position. Utilizing fire and maneuver tactics, he closed with the insurgents. Ignoring the enemy fire directed against him, Barnett placed several well aimed grenades in the enemy emplacement, completely destroying it. Through his timely and courageous actions, he contributed significantly to the successful evacuation of the wounded and to the rout of enemy forces.

After honorable discharge in 1970, Barnett returned to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He there met his wife, Diana, and they were married in 1971. Their first child, Michelle, was born in Lubbock; however, they moved to Phillips, Texas where Barnett began employment with Phillips Petroleum Company. Two additional children, Robert and Lori, were born while living in Phillips. Diana finished her college degree and began teaching school in Borger. After leaving Phillips Petroleum in 1992, Barnett received training and license in insurance claims adjusting and began work for Pilot Catastrophe Claim Services, where he worked as a claims adjuster and adjuster manager until retirement in 2012.

Barnett has been active in veteran organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America. He, and other veterans, established Chapter 404 in Borger. He served as Chapter President and Texas State President of Vietnam Veterans for 8 years. He is a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans. Barnett has also been a member of the Borger Elks Lodge for 28 years. He is a Christian and a member of Celebration Family Church. He enjoys giving back to the community through all these organizations and making sure that never again will one generation of veterans forget another.

Since retirement, Barnett and his wife, Diana, reside in Fritch, Texas. He has a close relationship with all his children, Michelle Brown and husband, Shannon, of Fritch; Robert Barnett and wife, Tracey, of Stoughton, Massachusetts, and Lori White and husband, Matt, of Fritch. He enjoys spending time with his eight grandchildren and watching them in school and extracurricular activities. He has two dogs, Willie and Edward, who keep him company during the day. Barnett feels blessed to spend time with his veteran “brothers” who have been faithful friends and take great care of him.

As a result of his honorable service to the country, Larry G. Barnett was awarded the following commendations: National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal w/bronze star, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Bronze Star with V device.

Kenneth Foster Black

Kenneth Foster Black was born 22 July 1922 in a box car in Groom, Texas. He was one of eight children. He grew up in Groom attending and graduating from high school in 1941. Black married his high school sweetheart, Nadine Keahey in early 1942. Their first child, Doyla, was born in late 1942. He joined the Army in October 1942 and was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for basic training and continued on to Oklahoma City for flight training. More training was obtained at Harlingen, Texas for gunnery school. He went then to Buckley Field in Aurora, Colorado which is close to Denver for added training.

Black was trained as a turret belly gunner on a B24 Liberator. His squadron was a long-range weather reconnaissance group. His crew trained at several bases across the United States in order to experience all types of weather conditions. Stateside, his group flew out of Del Rio, Texas, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Tonopah, Nevada, and Savannah, Georgia to name a few. Their B24’s had all the bomb racks removed and extra gas tanks added. They could fly out many hours and collect weather information. Their plane flew without escort.

In May 1945, Black along with his crew and aircraft were sent to the Pacific Theater. They arrived on the Island of Guam on 3 May 1945. Over the next three to four months they flew thirty missions over Japan, unescorted. They survived a crash on take off and lost a plane due to engine failure. The crew had to bail out-all survived.

On 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan where the weather was clear. That same day, Black and his crew were flying weather reconnaissance over Nagasaki, Japan which was the secondary target.

WWII ended 2 September 1945. Black and his crew came home aboard a ship, leaving all their airplanes where they set at the end of the War.

Black was separated from military duty at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas on 22 November 1945. He came home obtaining work in the oil patch near Fritch, Texas. Later he, Nadine, and now with, two young girls moved to Groom, where he worked as a carpenter/handyman until the early 1950s. Black then was employed by the Carson County Sheriff as a deputy in Groom. He remained deputy in Groom until the early 1960s. He resigned as deputy, due to being selected as the rural mail carrier in the Groom area. Black retired from the Postal Service in the early 1980s. After his wife passed away in 1986, he spent a lot of his time helping his youngest son, Kris, with his farming and cattle operation near Crawford, Oklahoma.

Black was a 32nd degree Mason. He attended several of the B24 Liberator Reunions and kept in touch with several of his crew members through the years. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, but loved watching his children and grandchildren play football, basketball and baseball.

He was proud of his service to his country. He was proud of his family and proud to be a Texan.

Kenneth Foster Black passed away on 18 February 2003. He and Nadine had five children: Doyla Bell from Amarillo, Texas, Connie Fulton from Amarillo, Texas, Dr. Keith Black from Pampa, Texas, Kyle Black from Amarillo, Texas, and Kris Black from Crawford, Oklahoma. To date he has twelve grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren.

As a result of his service, Black was awarded the following commendations: American Theater Service Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Theater Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Air Medal and Victory Medal. He was discharged as a Staff Sergeant.

He was truly one of the “Greatest Generation”.

COL Michael Foote

COL Michael Foote is a 1994 graduate of Pampa High School. Michael participated in football, wrestling, and student council for all four years of his high school career. He earned his Eagle Scout in Boy Scout Troop 414 and was active in the First United Methodist Church youth group and the local Optimist League sports.

Upon graduation, Michael was awarded an Army ROTC scholarship to the University of Oklahoma where he earned a degree in Health and Exercise Science and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant of Field Artillery in the US Army.

Following his initial officer basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Michael was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he served in the paratroopers for four years. He deployed to Afghanistan with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division during this assignment in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Upon return from Afghanistan, Michael was promoted to Captain and selected for the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg where he earned the coveted Green Beret in 2005. He was then assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. During his time at 5th Special Forces Group, he commanded SF ODAs 596 and 5313 deploying to Iraq on multiple occasions as a part of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM where he was recognized for his leadership and valor.

In 2010, the Army sent Michael to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California where he earned a Masters of Science in Defense Analysis. Michael then returned to the 5th Group as a Major where he commanded A Company, 3rd Battalion and the Group Advanced Skills Company, served as a Battalion Executive Officer, and the Group Operations Officer. He deployed in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE to numerous locations across the Middle East including Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq focused on the counter-ISIS fight.

After completion of his time in 5th Special Forces Group, COL Foote was selected to attend the Advanced Military Studies Program at the School of Advanced Military Studies in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where he earned a Masters of Military Science.

In 2017, COL Foote was selected to command US Army Garrison Fort Greely, Alaska where he was responsible for the operational readiness and defense of the nation’s strategic ground-based missile defense field and the Army’s Cold Regions Test Center.

His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, three Bronze Star Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, and a Joint Service Commendation Medal. He has earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Special Forces Tab, Master Parachutist Badge, and Pathfinder Badge.

Everett Edward Mann

Everett Edward Mann was born 16 April 1902 in Dryden, Virginia to Robert Emery Mann and Minnie Lee (Young) Mann. Shortly after his birth, they moved to Hedley, Texas where they farmed.

At the age of 19, Mann enlisted in the US Navy and subsequently received a Congressional appointment to the United State Naval Academy at Annapolis.

His Annapolis senior class book he was described as:

“Mann portrays by his very posture that he is from the Southwest. He has that little drop of the right shoulder that comes from long habit of holding one hand on the hip ready to shoot on sight of Indians, enemies, or rivals in love”.

“The appeal of athletic achievement has rarely lured Mann from a warm room because he vastly prefers a chin fest to a workout. He is always ready to boost the conversation along by relating an amusing experience of his. Although the veracity of some of these experiences have been strongly questioned, it is remarkably hard to mix him up. The experience only grows more elaborate and polished the more he is pushed.”

“When ‘Hombre’ cocks his head over to one side and begins to talk, the fair sex cannot resist him. He is able to fascinate them, singly or in groups, as long as they can see him and hear his voice. He is not a perpetual snake; nevertheless, each time he has dragged, he has had marked success.”

“Very few instances are on record when anyone has trampled on ‘Hombre’s’ inherent rights as an American Citizen and escaped with the long end of the bargain. His philosophy is: Don’t be abused by anyone, but don’t worry about anything else. ‘Did I ever tell you the time……”

Mann received a Master Degree in Engineering from the University of California in 1934. He began his Navy career in the submarine service on the Navy’s early R-Boats, and later served as the Engineering Officer aboard the battleship New York from 1939 until 1942.

Mann served during WWII in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters and was awarded a Bronze Star for his service as Maintenance Officer of Service Squadron 10, Advanced Repair Units, in the Pacific. His wartime service took him from the signing of the Atlantic Charter by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Atlantic Conference in August 1941 to the Japanese surrender ceremonies aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Harbor on 1 September 1945.

During 1942-1944, Mann served as Planning Officer at the US Naval Dry Dock, South Boston, where he oversaw ship repair as well as the special outfitting of the ship that carried FDR on the wartime Atlantic crossings in 1943 to meet with Allied leaders. For his service at the shipyard, Mann received a letter of commendation from Secretary of the Navy Forrestal.

In 1944, Mann was ordered to the Pacific Fleet where he oversaw the repair of battle-damaged ships as well as ships disabled by the great typhoon of 1945. He was Maintenance Officer, Destroyers Pacific from 1946-1947.

At the war’s end, as a member of Admiral Spruance’s staff, Mann was among the first Americans to view the devastation wrought on the city of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb.

After the war, Mann was posted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was appointed Professor of Naval Engineering and elected to Sigma Xi (sigma zi), a scientific honorary society.

Following retirement from the Navy in 1950, Mann joined the American Presidential Lines as Chief Engineer. Later he became Executive Vice-President of Grove Valve and Regulator Company in Emeryville, California.

Mann was a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and of the American Society of Naval Engineers.

Captain Everett Edward Mann passed on 30 December 1989 at the age of 87 years.

Oran Oliver Rake

Oran Oliver Rake was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma 30 April 1923 to Marvel and June Newland Rake. His parents moved with him and his brother to Pampa in 1927 to work in the oilfield. Oran Rake graduated from Pampa High School in 1941 with a dream of becoming an aviator.

Rake entered service 16 Jan 1943, trained at Bruce Field in Ballinger, Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, and received his commission at Foster Field, Victoria. While stationed in Ballinger, he met and married Ora Oneta Lindley. They were married in Feb 1944 and shortly moved to Dover, Delaware for further training. He left for overseas service 24 August 1944, going first to Italy, then to France.

2LT Rake was a pilot of a P-47 Thunderbolt assigned to the 314 Fighter Squadron, 324 Fighter Group, 12th Air Force. The 324th “Hawks” was organized in 1942, fighting in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and finally ended up in France shortly after D-Day. “The mission of the 324th was air support, so they would fly over our troops and pound the Germans so our troops could keep moving forward.” The tactic was effective, but costly.

The 324th was composed of three squadrons. There were fifteen P-47 Thunderbolts, the premiere air-to-ground fighters in WWII, in each squadron. In just a three or four month period of their time in France, 80 pilots were lost. Of the 15 pilots in Rake’s squadron, 13, including Rake, were killed in action.

On 8 Dec 1944 on about his 10th mission, 2LT Rake’s plane was shot down about 30-40 miles from his base at Dole/Tavaux Field, about 150 miles southeast of Paris, France. Records and witness statements indicate that the squadron had very heavy German anti-aircraft fire. His heavily armored P-47 went into a spin, as if the rudder had been damaged. Rake bailed out of the aircraft; however, he was too close to the ground and his chute failed to deploy properly. He was killed on impact. What remains of the engine from his plane is displayed at the entrance to the World War II Museum in Dijon, France.

2LT Rake’s son, Oran L. Rake, was born on 30 Dec 1944, shortly after the death of his father.

As a result of his service, LT Oran Oliver Rake was awarded the following commendations and medals: Purple Heart and Air Medal.

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