- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Retired Marine Corps Col. H.C. "Barney" Barnum says he is an average man who triumphed under extraordinary circumstances.
Col. Barnum, who lives in Reston, is one of the 48 Medal of Honor recipients being honored at an exhibit called "Ordinary Heroes," which opens today at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and runs through Aug. 10. The exhibit, which is touring nationally, is a visual tribute to freedom and the American spirit. It is based on photographer Tom Casalini's book by the same title. Admission is free.
"We are ordinary gents," Col. Barnum says. "While serving our country, we were forced into a situation that we had to act above and beyond duty. Some of it was due to the individuals. Mostly, we were in the wrong place at the right time The good Lord had probably a lot to do with our success."
Col. Barnum, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, received his medal for service during the Vietnam War in December 1965. The medal is the highest honor for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon someone serving in the armed services of the United States. It is given to the recipient by the president in the name of Congress.
The picture of Col. Barnum featured in the "Ordinary Heroes" exhibit captures him sitting in his living room in a relaxed pose. He says he enjoys this setting rather than being photographed in a tuxedo with his ribbons and medals.
Mr. Casalini, of Zionsville, Ind., photographer of the show, says he spent about five hours with each recipient before deciding how to portray him. He says he didn't want to depict his subjects with a military mind-set. Rather, their personalities dictated their portraits.
The show started in Atlanta on July 4 and will make nine stops until it closes in Indianapolis on Veterans Day.
"It's about the power of the human spirit," Mr. Casalini says. "We look in all the wrong places for heroes and role models. Here's a group of men that quietly lead in honor of all that have fought for the freedom of our country. What's important to them is their families and churches, their children and grandchildren. We overlook how wonderful it is to be ordinary, to be a good father."
Mr. Casalini hopes that the exhibit and the book will inspire others to find the hero within themselves. He says he was looking for a way to create an uplifting expression of his faith, Roman Catholicism.
"I've been a professional photographer for about 30 years," Mr. Casalini says. "At about 25 years, you look back to see what you have done. I was looking for a way to contribute. I had been asking for spiritual guidance [for my work]."
When Mr. Casalini photographed retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Lee Littrell of St. Pete Beach, Fla., he captured the Medal of Honor recipient next to a tree in his back yard from which crab-trap balls hang. Because Command Sgt. Maj. Littrell lives near the Gulf of Mexico, he loves to go fishing. He also enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. He received his Medal of Honor while serving in the Vietnam War in April 1970.
"I enjoyed the setting [of the photograph]," Command Sgt. Maj. Littrell says. "It lets people of America know that we are not toy soldiers that you wind up with an Energizer battery."

WHAT: "Ordinary Heroes," a tribute to America's Medal of Honor recipients
WHERE: Center Court, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, 110 South Hayes St., Arlington
WHEN: Today through Aug. 10
PHONE: 703/415-2400

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide