Family maintains military collection honoring ancestors

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KENLY — Dan and Peggy Barnes have a hallowed place at their home.

The Kenly couple have relatives who served in World War II, World War I, the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

Ephemera from the veterans includes old photographs, campaign medals, official communications, flags and commendations.

“It’s getting to the point where we are going to need a bigger wall,” said Dan Barnes.

“We just want to show how proud we are for what they did,” said Peggy Barnes.

Peggy Barnes has pictures of her fourth and fifth great-grandfathers, who both served in the Revolutionary War.

Francis Lewis of New York was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He and his son Morgan Lewis both served in the fight against the British.

“Then he (Morgan Lewis) became governor of New York after the Revolutionary War,” Peggy Barnes said.

“I think somebody needs to preserve these things and I just wanted to display it and show how much they were contributing and try to help for our freedom,” said Dan Barnes.

“I appreciate it, and she does too.”

Skip forward a century to the Civil War.

“My great-grandfather was in the Civil War,” said Dan Barnes. “He fought and was wounded in the Battle of Bentonville.”

John H. Barnes was only 15 years old when the “War Between the States” broke out in 1861.

“He wanted to fight the Yanks so bad so he enlisted and lied about his age,” Dan Barnes said. “He was in a few months and somehow they caught up with him about his age and told him he was discharged and sent him home.”

He went back in at 17 when he could legally enlist.

After being wounded at Bentonville, he lived out his life until passing in 1919 in the Nahunta community of Johnston County.

“The cemetery is less than a less than a half mile from here,” Dan Barnes said. “He is buried real close.”

Peggy Barnes’ father, Lewis Willmott-Johnson, flew airplanes for Great Britain in World War I.

The couple has his bayonet and the fabric numbers off of his plane.

Both of Dan Barnes’ parents, Johnnie Barnes and Helen Nancy Pittman Barnes, served in the U.S. Army.

They are both interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

“I think the flags in the display are my favorites. My father had gotten two Bronze Stars in his service,” Dan Barnes said.

Barnes put everything he could find that was related to his parents up on the wall or in a book kept nearby.

“I’ve still got his Army trunk that he carried with him,” Barnes said.

Barnes recalled that his father had been near the end of a one-year enlistment when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941.

“He was due to get out the next month and he was looking forward to it because he had other plans,” Barnes said. “Then, the announcement of Pearl Harbor came over. They were in the barracks at the time and he said ‘We’re not going anywhere now. I might as well be here for the long haul.’ And he was. It was another four years.”

Barnes is amazed at the photos of France that his father brought back from World War II.

Buildings are heavily damaged from the fighting in the pictures.

“It was quite a lot of accomplishment when they went to try to drive the Germans out and to defeat them, the effort put out,” Barnes said. “Everything he did, I just kind of cherish.”

Barnes would have conversations with his father about his service.

“Some things he wouldn’t really talk about much. He wouldn’t talk about the bad. He’d tell me about some of the good,” Barnes said.

“He said the French people would be waving at them and thanking them for running the Germans out. They were giving them wine. He said every pocket he had had a wine bottle in it.”

Barnes said they were grateful.

“You couldn’t understand the language, but you could just see the smile on their faces that freedom was there,” Barnes recalled his father saying.

“It just makes me good feeling that. I can’t imagine how suppressed they were. The Nazi control was a terrible thing.

“That’s why I consider them the Greatest Generation. They just gave it all. I am proud of them. I am pretty sure there’s a lot of people proud of them as a group.”

Barnes, who served in the Air Force in 1966 until a medical discharge, said he remembers looking at the artifacts of his family from the time he was a child.

“It’s just patriotic, just a good feeling,” Barnes said.

The couple’s eldest son served in the Air Force in the 1980s.

“He is really proud of that wall and he comments on it every time he visits,” Barnes said. “At least somebody can come here and at least see something related to that era.”