Remembering Robin Barrett

A Marine mortar man who dodged hundreds of bullets on Iwo Jima couldn’t escape the deadly pandemic sweeping the world in 2020.

Robin Barrett, a World War II veteran, died at the Oregon Veterans Home in Lebanon, one of a half dozen veterans to die there during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Barrett joined the military after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He was only 17, so his mother had to sign paperwork so he could join.

He could have died during training when instructors tested Marines to see if they would jump out of an airplane with a parachute. Two burly fellows caught the recruits before they jumped—at least, they were supposed to catch them—Barrett told a KGW reporter in February 2019 as part of its Those Who Serve series. When his turn arrived, he hit an air pocket and they missed catching him. He plunged toward the earth without any training whatsoever but managed to pull the chute to land safely.

He said the people who were supposed to catch him asked how many times he’d jumped in the past. He responded, “I’ve never jumped in my life before, and I don’t think I jumped this time. I fell out.”

He told the KGW reporter he could share stories “’til hell freezes over.”

At Iwo Jima, he carried an 82-pound steel baseplate that anchored his mortar, and one day, it was pocked with machine gun bullet holes, showing how close the gunfire came to killing him.

Barrett worked as a salesman, coached Little League baseball, and fathered four children with his wife. In recent years, he enjoyed visiting children, teachers, and principal at the elementary school across the street.

Then he caught the coronavirus and died April 14.

His daughter, Dana, a hospital social worker in Port Angeles, Washington, wore protective gear as she held her father’s hand when he passed away. She described him as an amazing and special man.

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