By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Former Winsted resident Jerry Allen Barlow will be honored posthumously for his service to his country during the Vietnam War in a special ceremony in Washington DC, at the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Monday, April 19 at 10 a.m.
Barlow served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968, and was awarded six war medals and the Bronze Star for valor.
He died 25 years ago at St. Mary’s Hospital in Winsted at the age of 46.
Although he survived gorilla warfare in Vietnam, he later lost his life to cancer linked to repeated exposure to Agent Orange, a herbicide developed for the military’s use in Vietnam to reduce the dense jungle foliage.
Barlow’s son, Kevin, a 1988 Howard Lake High School graduate, applied for the honor for his father, who will be included with 74 other honorees, on “In Memory Day.” The annual event pays tribute to men and women who have died as a result of the Vietnam War, but whose deaths do not fit the criteria the Department of Defense requires to be included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“I wanted him to be remembered and recognized as a Vietnam War hero who sacrificed so much for his family and the country that he loved,” Kevin said. “He was a true patriot who believed in serving his country in the name of freedom. His ultimate service and sacrifice won’t be forgotten.”
As part of the observance, Barlow’s name will be read aloud. At the conclusion of the ceremony, his certificate will be placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and later collected to be stored in a permanent archive.
Barlow was the commanding officer of River Squadron Five, River Division 52, that operated out of Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta.
He had received the Bronze Star in 1967, for surviving a deadly week in the jungles of Vietnam, rescuing a general with his Navy gunboat patrol during a Viet Cong ambush attack on a Marine stronghold, and bringing the high-ranking Marine general back alive under enemy fire.
Cruising the rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam, Barlow led a crew of men on Navy gunboats, denying passage to the enemy Viet Cong that were infiltrating South Vietnamese strongholds.
“They had to always be alert, taking enemy fire and participating in many firefights with the enemy soldiers who were trained to be deadly in close combat jungle warfare,” Barlow’s son, Kevin said.
“The gunboat would carry contingents of Special Ops Marines to designated drop points and his gunboat patrol would have to wait for the Marines to come back and then take them safely back to the base,” Kevin said. “Many times my father took hits from the Viet Cong attacks late at night when they would patrol the rivers until dawn.”
Jerry Barlow was exposed to Agent Orange, along with many other soldiers, during his time on patrol on the Mekong Delta and the rivers.
“My mother (Thom Barlow) said that ‘the planes were spraying the pesticides right overhead as his men were on patrol,’” Kevin said.
While in Vietnam, Jerry Barlow met Trinh Thi Thom (Thom Barlow) in Saigon, Vietnam, and they were married Jan. 13, 1966.
Kevin, son of Jerry and Thom, has two older brothers, Cuan and Kiet, who were also born in Vietnam, and a younger brother, Jody. All four brothers are graduates of Howard Lake.
Kevin wants his father to be recognized at the special ceremony in April because he is a war hero, but he also wants to give something back to his father, who fought so hard to bring his family back to America in 1973.
“During that time there were lots of issues with soldiers marrying Vietnamese women, and most soldiers had to abandon their families there,” Kevin said. “If not for him, we wouldn’t have had the opportunities we now have.”
Although Jerry Barlow was originally from Westboro, MO, he moved his family from Vietnam to Omaha, NE in 1973, where his brother was living, and the family lived there for about five years.
The Barlow family visited Howard Lake and the Winsted area in 1977, because it was the home of a Navy friend of Jerry’s who had also married a Vietnamese woman.
In Minnesota, the Barlows found there were better job opportunities, and in 1978, they moved to Winsted. Jerry worked at Red Owl for Jim Paradis, and Thom worked at Tonka Toys in Mound.
“Nobody knew that my father was a war hero. He was a quiet, humble, and hardworking blue-collar man who rarely spoke of his time during the war,” Kevin said.
Kevin, who was 8 years old when the family moved to Winsted, remembers those early years.
“My brothers and I had newspaper routes,” Kevin said. “We delivered newspapers for the whole town of Winsted. We would have to get up every morning at 5 a.m. to deliver newspapers, every day of the week, rain or shine. It was the toughest during the cold winters, biking through snow with subzero weather. When it was too cold, my father would drive us in his car,” Kevin said.
Jerry Barlow was diagnosed with cancer in the winter of 1984. After several months of chemotherapy for cancer that was linked to Agent Orange, he died Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985.
Kevin, who was 14 years old at the time, remembers a military service for his father with a six-gun salute at the Winsted cemetery.
Kevin Barlow plans a film about his father
Kevin Barlow lives in Los Angeles, CA and is the owner, creative director, and producer of Fusion Entertainment.
He is in the process of producing a screenplay for a feature film about his father’s time in the Vietnam War and how he was honored with the Bronze Star and six other war medals.
“I’m also developing a possible documentary about Agent Orange and how it has devastated millions of lives from the Vietnam War,” Kevin said.
“I’m working with a professional screenwriter and some movie producing partners to raise funding to write a script. I think it’s an amazing story that needs to be told.”
After graduating from Howard Lake High School, Kevin attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design where he graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1995.
But way before he even graduated from high school, there were signs of his artistic and creative imagination.
“I’ve always liked to draw. When I was a young child, I was fascinated with cartoons, comics and movies. My brothers and I would always go to the Winsted Movie Theater right down the street on Main Street, to watch the latest science fiction thriller or Disney animated feature,” Kevin said.
“We would also go to the drug store every Tuesday to check out the latest comic books. We would make up our own comics and movie ideas.”
Kevin has been working in animation and graphic design for more than 15 years.
He worked for Microsoft as an art director and Colle + Mcvoy, an advertising agency in Minneapolis as a senior designer. In 2003, along with two other partners, he started a creative design studio called Whoop Design and turned it into an award-winning graphic design firm.
“I wrote, produced and directed an animated short film with help from a team of animators from Minneapolis. The film, “Lithium,” about a futuristic Cyborg detective, was accepted into five film festivals and screened in Hollywood winning the award for best animation at the California International Animation Festival in 2007,” Kevin said. “That is where I met one of my Creative partners, Frank Dietz, a writer and animator who has done work at Disney on such animated classics as Fantasia 2000, Tarzan and Hercules.”
After selling his partnership to his design company, he moved to Los Angeles about three years ago to pursue his lifelong dream of directing his own characters in animated films and television. There, Kevin established Fusion Entertainment Studios.
He is currently developing several children’s television series, a video game and a comic book project, and several feature film projects based on his original animation properties.
As a creative director and producer in animation and graphic design, he wears many hats.
“I can shape the visual look of any animation project. I can help provide animation development, concept artwork, character designs, storyboards, and animation production,” Kevin said.
To contact Kevin through email, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his web site: fusionanimation.com.