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Quilt of Valor Recipient Joe Baker; Fate Intervened

By Marsha Woods
It is difficult for most of us to fathom the measure of humility that it takes to be a soldier.  Each and every man who ever stood tall for his country, whatever his story may be, does so with pride and personal reason.
For Weiser’s Joe Baker, serving his country came at a time when he considered his life to be controlled by his own path.  Ironically, fate thought differently.
Joe grew up in Huntington, Oregon, a small, but close knit community. He was raised to appreciate the concept of commitment to hard work.  Joe’s very first job was as  a bus boy at the local café at the tender age of 13. After High School graduation in 1962, he opted to explore his future options by moving to the Nampa-Caldwell area. In 1963, prompted by his parents, he applied for and was hired by the Railroad as a “Gandy Dancer,” tamping railroad ties on a Section Crew. In 1965, Joe changed his vision and went to work for the Portland Cement Company to aid his bank account. It was then that fate, once intervened.
At the onset of the Viet Nam War, the draft was precarious and Joe, at the “ripe age” of 25, got the envelope with an invitation that changed his life in 1967. Joe knew that it was it was an opportunity, not only to help support his family, but to make a difference for the motherland that he so respected. He was mustered into the Army in 1968 and was immediately sent to Fort Rucker, Alabama for basic training.  Joe’s intention was to learn to “fly like a bird.”  He patiently awaited an opportunity to attend flight school; however, providence does not wait.  He was invited to attend Air Traffic Control School at Klessseler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Missippi. Training proved to be a grueling, yet exhilarating experience for Joe.  He spent 4 or 5 months in Biloxi; was then transferred to Fort Rucker, where he was schooled in tower control, staging field training for student pilots and monitoring procedures.  Success sent him to TDY (Temporary duty) in Florida. The Army, who was the furnisher of Air Traffic Controllers for fixed wing pilots, saw Joe as a great asset.  In 1968, he proudly received his Senior FAA rating.
Holidays, for most people, usually means a time of joy and gifts encased in colorful paper.  For Joe Baker, the gift he received in 1968 brought a bigger surprise than he could have imagined.  Two days before Christmas, he was called to duty; his deployment destination Lei Khe, Viet Nam.
As a member of the 314th ASD, 3RD Battalion, 1st Infantry unit, Joe spent an intense 9 months of service as an ATC.  He describes his experience as “overall confusion; “with, “more traffic than O’ Hare.” One can only imagine the powerful impact that is left in the wake of occurrence.
Joe was released from his duties in October of 1969.  Returning home, as an Army Reservist, he was honorably released from his obligations in 1972.  Moving back to Weiser, he attended Treasure Valley Community College and studied aviation. Eventually he went back to his roots at Ash Grove Cement (formerly Portland cement), where he was employed until he returned to the railroad in 1973; eventually going to work for the State of Idaho, retiring in 1988.
 In the eyes of Joe Baker, there is nothing that points to him being heroic.  His wife of 26 years, Janet, disagrees! Joe’s dedication to their family of 4 children, his grandchildren and his community makes him a champion in all aspects of his life.  He has suffered some unexpected health problems, but he never stops appreciating what life has to offer.  These days, he trap shoots, fished, camps, rides the hills on a Razor and repairs Volkswagens!  Humbled by his accomplishments, he admits to receiving the National Defense Service Medal, the Viet Nam Service Medal, the Viet Nam Campaign Medal and a Presidential citation for his unit They mean a lot to him, but as much as having had the occasion to be a part of the pride that comes from being a soldier!  Valor comes in many colors! For Joe Baker it comes in the red, white and blue quilt that he received last week from the community that he so loves!! Gallantry is humbling; it is not something that asks to be rewarded!  Joe Baker just asks to go camping!

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