In Carthage, getting clean water is as simple as turning on the faucet.
Carthage native and U.S. Army Veteran Terry Barton has spent a career of more than 25 years working to make clean drinking water just as easy to obtain in the deserts and war zones of the Middle East and southwest Asia.
Barton owns a home in Carthage. His wife, Shonda, and daughter and son-in-law, Lacey and Jerad Wilson, along with their newborn son, Creed Wilson, still live here as well.
Terry Barton was in Carthage for a few days last month for his first visit with his new grandson. That's when he took time to talk to The Carthage Press about his career as an engineer, and his time as a soldier in the U.S. Army, working in what was then called Graves Registration, making sure the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice were handled with respect as they were returned to their loved ones.
"We were a collection point for U.S. casualties so we would do the death certificates," Barton said. "My area would transport them to Da Nang for embalming and transport back to the US. I was In Vietnam for 21 months then I went to Germany for about a year and worked at the U.S. Army Mortuary in Frankfurt."
Larry Glaze, a Carthage artist and a veteran who served in the Navy before and during Vietnam, said he knows Barton saw some terrible things during Barton's time in the country.
Glaze said he was honored recently when Barton sent him a framed American flag that once flew from a flagstaff in Afghanistan and was carried on a helicopter during a combat mission in Afghanistan.
Glaze said the flag brought to mind some strong emotions for him.
"What it meant to me was just memories," Glaze said. "It goes all the way back to Laos when I was detained for 14 months. It brings back memories because I knew he was a corpsman and he handled a lot of body bags in Vietnam. Really, to keep his sanity, it was tremendous. I knew Terry had a good background, I know Terry's grandma, his granddad, his dad and his mom and his brother."
After the Army
Barton graduated from Carthage High School in 1966 and went to college mainly to avoid the draft.
At that time, high school graduates were drafted into the military unless they had some kind of physical issue that prevented them from serving or they were in college.
"I went to school to keep out of the draft, flunked out of college and I got drafted," Barton said. "I went in in March of 1969, then in October of 1969 I went to Vietnam. I got out of high school when I was 17, I was young, and I didn't go back to school until I was 29. I got my degree when I was 35 and that's when I started my career."
Page 2 of 3 - Barton went to work for for the Carthage Water & Electric Plant in 1975 and worked there for 10 years.
"I got a lot of experience there," Barton said. "I worked at CW&EP for 10 years, worked at the water plant for five years, the waste water plant for five years and Carthage Water and Electric is a well-run facility. Carthage ought to be proud of its utility system here. I learned a lot in my 10 years here. I went to school and when I was working there I went to night school and finished my degree. Carthage Water and Electric paid for it. You had to pass, but if you went to college, they paid for the course, they also paid you to go to school, paid you hour for hour. They helped a lot."
In 1985, Barton took his first overseas job.
At that point I went to work for an environmental engineering firm out of Boston, Metcalf and Eddy, a world renowned environmental engineering company," Barton said. "I worked in Puerto Rico for three years, my family went with me. My daughter learned Spanish and I didn't."
After a couple of years, Barton found himself in Egypt, where he stayed for several years.
"I worked on the USAID-funded projects," Barton said. "We stayed in Egypt until about 2005. I took a small break, came back home, got tired of overseas, came back home. I went to work at Crowder College and taught there for their environmental department and worked there a year."
That was in 1999. After a little more than a year in the states, Barton said he decided to return to Egypt.
"Overseas was still in my blood so I went back overseas," he said. "I came home in 1999, then went back overseas to Egypt in early 2001. I was in Egypt until 2005 except for that short break. I was in Egypt for 16 years except for that break at Crowder. I lived in Cairo, Mansaura, Ismailia, Port Said, Alexandria, Nuwaiva."
Between 2005 and 2009, Barton worked on projects in Iraq, then returned to Egypt. He took six months off in 2009 before taking on a new assignment in Afghanistan.
He currently works for the Army Corps of Engineers as their "in-country, subject-matter expert, for water and wastewater in northern Afghanistan."
Water in the desert
Barton's works from project to project, helping bring water and waste water treatment plants online in places where clean water is a scarce and vital resource.
"I come in prior to completion of the project, maybe a year prior, and then we start writing manuals, standard operating procedures, setting up the training program, setting up computerized maintenance management systems," Barton said. "I don't engineer the plants. We do startup, I'm a startup manager."
Page 3 of 3 - Barton said the plants he helps bring to life become sources of clean water for people from miles around those plants.
"At a lot of the water plants, they set up watering points outside the plant so people who do not have water distribution in their area, they come in with donkey carts and they have water jugs and they fill up with water and go home," Barton said. "It's a source of clean water for the people around the plant. If it's not there, they take it out of the river, they take it out of the canals. Those can be open cesspools. You have the Nile River and there's canals that go for miles and miles, and the ladies are down there are washing their cookware, washing their clothes and that's their source of drinking water."
In Afghanistan, Barton said he travels with the military from project to project and has to wear full military gear and body armor. He said he's been fortunate to live in so many interesting places and bring back wonderful relationships and memories.
"My wife and I talk about Egypt a lot because we made a lot of friends with the Egyptian people," Barton said. "Some of the Egyptians I worked with 12 or 13 years and most of them I worked with were Muslim. It's just makes you sick to see what's going on because the Egyptian people are very very friendly. They treated us kindly, we never felt threatened.
"I don't think people at home realize where I've been. I probably wouldn't change anything though. I've missed a lot, but I've done a lot too."