David Barfield was a Vietnam veteran and a big music fan. He was also the most prolific sports fan of all times. He watched just about every sport there was – all day and most of the night. He would watch Sports Center just about every time it came on, even though it was really just a repeat of the previous ones most of the time. He hailed from Michigan and was a fan of all Michigan teams – Red Wings, Pistons, Lions, Spartans, Wolverines and anything else Michigan.
If they had a mixed doubles tiddly-wink team from Michigan, he would watch and cheer them on. Since he lived in Chattanooga for the past ten years, he also adopted the Atlanta Braves as an alternate home team and watched every game, cheering them on as well. He was a fan of the Big Ten, but he had come to recognize the SEC was where the real championship football is played and was a secret Alabama fan.
David also loved music. Naturally, since he was 61 years old, he really liked the classic rock bands and oldies from his younger years. Oh, and don’t forget Michigan’s own Bob Seger – David loved him some Seger. Whenever we would take a ride to the Veterans Administration hospital in Nashville or Murfreesboro, he would always like to put some good tunes on the radio or CD player. He even went to Riverbend once a few years ago, as well as a Lady Mocs basketball game. He was always impressed by the perennial winner UTC Ladies basketball team.
In 1971, David was in the U.S. Navy, stationed on a ship in Vietnam. At that time, the U.S. was spraying a herbicide/defoliant called Agent Orange, named for the 55 gallon barrel with the Orange Stripe on it. In the years it was used, nearly 20 million gallons were sprayed. For 25 years, the U.S. government denied that Agent Orange caused several diseases, such as ischemic heart disease, diabetes, cancer, neuropathy, and Parkinson’s. In 1991, 30 years after the last Agent Orange usage, the government finally acknowledged that the presence of the diseases warranted “presumptive” proof that the veteran had gotten sick from Agent Orange.
Over the years, David’s health had deteriorated. He had most of the diseases caused by Agent Orange and finally, in 2010, the VA decided David had gotten sick as a result of the chemical. They changed his status to “service connected” disability. That opened some new doors for David as far as VA treatments and availability of resources for his health care. Unfortunately, by then, he was pretty messed up. His neuropathy had worsened; his diabetes had cost him his big toe and most of his eyesight. His heart condition had worsened and he had to be revived many times with a difibrillator over the past three years.
David loved the sea and his Navy experience and in early 2012, we took him on a cruise to the Panama Canal. For ten days, David really enjoyed himself. He ate well, got up on the pool deck and just relaxed. Unfortunately, his health would again deteriorate following the cruise and on August 15, David passed away at the VA hospital.
In my mind, David was every bit a veteran who died in battle during war as one who was shot on the battlefield – it just took 40 years for him to die from his war injuries. They have hero ceremonies for today’s veterans that are killed in action, and rightly so. Perhaps we should start honoring those soldiers and sailors that took longer to die from wartime injuries and diseases. So, while you are out this weekend, ask the musicians to honor David with a song. Maybe even a Seger song. That would be nice. His name is David Barfield, he was my brother-in-law, and he died fighting for our country.
For local music info, try www.chattanoogaentertainers.com or www.chattanooganightscope.com. They both have great local music info and schedules. For local info on Country music, try Jim Boles’ site www.chattacountry.ning.com.
Email Bob Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/davrik2000 .