Raymond Barton Sr. needed to replace the leaky roof on the home he has lived in for 65 years, but the World War II veteran couldn’t afford it. He had other priorities, including medical expenses, that had to come first.
The 95-year-old former Marine said he served in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to 1946 simply out of a sense of duty. Recognition for his service makes him uncomfortable: He was only doing what he had to do for his country when he enlisted, he said.
So when Lon Smith Roofing came to his house Monday with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price to replace his roof and honor his military service, he didn’t know what to make of it. Tears came to his eyes as Price thanked him for his service.
“It was just my duty,” he told her matter-of-factly.
The company’s Roof for Vets program provides a new roof to at least one veteran every quarter. The company has served 17 veterans since 2016. Barton’s family nominated him after he told them about the leak.
Raymond Barton Jr. said he and his two brothers were prepared to work together and pay for the repairs, but this program came as a blessing to them.
Barton Sr. isn’t used to others outside the family offering him something in return for his service. When he left the Marines, he went to TCU on the GI bill, got a degree and worked. He’s always been the type to pull himself up, Barton Jr. said.
“He doesn’t really understand why he’s getting all this attention,” Barton Jr. said, getting choked up as he spoke. “I’m 70 years old, and as far back as I can remember, I’ve never even seen him with a tear in his eye.”
Barton Sr. was a sergeant in the Marines by the time he was discharged. He remembers when he got home the day he enlisted, his single mother (he lost his father at a young age) and two sisters were surprised. But they didn’t say anything to dissuade or discourage him.
“There was no question at that time when the war broke out,” Barton Sr. said. “I’m 18 years old at the time, as were my friends, and we just decided we had to go to protect our country. It was just automatically a duty we had to fulfill, so we did.”
Barton Sr. said he was worried about going to fight. He was going with seven friends from Frankfort, Kentucky. He said he’s the last of his friends alive today, and every day is a blessing. It makes him appreciate the new roof even more.
“You cannot imagine. Every morning you wake up after you get this old, and you’re just so grateful that you’ve got another day,” he said. “You make the best of it.”