Jackie Howard Farmer
of Navarro County, Texas


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11/23/2003 HELPING OUT HIS OWN: Veterans Services Officer Jackie Farmer is a veteran himself


Jackie Farmer, Navarro County's veterans services officer, served in the Korean Conflict where he ran communications lines between forward observers and mortar batteries -- often under fire. Daily Sun photo/LOYD COOK

By LOYD COOK/Daily Sun Staff

Jackie Farmer knows the people he works to help.

The 72-year-old is the veterans services officer for Navarro County, manning an office in the basement of the courthouse next to that of the county commissioners.

For three days a week -- Monday, Wednesday, Friday -- Farmer answers the questions of veterans living in the county. He directs them toward the right programs, whether it involves a hospital, home loan, or educational opportunities.

Farmer himself can relate to the men and women that walk into his office. A veteran of the Korean conflict, he knows what it's like to serve in the military ... to be in the line of fire.

He handled communications between forward observers and soldiers firing mortars. On the surface, it sounds like about as safe an occupation as a war zone position might get.

But it wasn't.

"You never knew if you'd come back or not ... shrapnel flying all around, popping off your helmet," Farmer remembered. "Then (the enemy) could blow up the (telephone) line and I'd have to go back out and lay another one."

Kind of the extreme version of "telephone repairman."

Farmer described Korea as a "holding action," one where much of the conflict was fought from static positions with an occasional patrol sent out against the enemy.

He came in-country to the "Sandbag Castle" -- a U.S. position that came by its nickname honestly.

"There were so many bunkers made out of sandbags that everybody just called it that," Farmer said.

He spent much the remainder of his time at Outpost Queen, a position that had one way in and enemies on most of three sides, kind of a inlet into opposition territory.

Present when Korea's final ceasefire was called, Farmer and his buddies in Company H, 180th Infantry, 45th Division were pulled back to Camp George in Yang Gu Valley where they stayed until the 45th rotated home.

That is, most of the 45th went home. Farmer didn't have enough "rotation points" to go home yet and was shifted to the 25th Division for the remainder of his 14 months overseas.

Returning home, he was stationed in El Paso where his division helped train new soldiers.

In all, Farmer served from 1952 to 1954 in the U.S. Army, then six more years (later on) in the reserves.

"It felt good," he said of returning stateside. "But you still had to readjust to civilian life after the military, but I was sure glad to get home."

He ended up in Houston, working for Murray Rubber Company for a year, then for General Motors in Arlington for another year before deciding to come back to Corsicana and attend Navarro Junior College and work part-time.

Farmer would work into the early '60s at James King Grocery Store, now defunct, then for a two or three years at Wonderbread.

He landed a job with Mrs. Baird's in 1967, where he stayed until retirement in 1995.

Farmer is presently married to his wife of 48 years, Jo Ann Adams Farmer, originally of Dawson. He is a 1949 graduate of Blooming Grove High School and was born in Navarro Mills where he attended the grade school known as "Alliance Halls."

His decision to leave his job at Mrs. Baird's proved timely, he said.

"About the time I retired, this job (veterans services officer) came open," Farmer said. "I thought it would keep me busy and it has."

Some 50 years removed from combat, Farmer has made some re-connections with former soldiers he served with, including his best buddy from Missouri after both had been searching for the other for several years.

They got together for the first time in Branson about two years ago.

Farmer remembers that conflict well, still attends Army reunions, and is somewhat amazed by the passage of time.

But he has no regrets.

"I was drafted, I really didn't want to go (to Korea)," Farmer said. "But after I got in, and got over there and did my time, well I'm sure glad I served my country."

And many veterans should be appreciative that he is back in harness, this time serving his fellow soldiers, airmen, and seamen.

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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox