Veterans at the Dallas VA Medical Center saw a familiar face walking the halls and visiting patients in their community living center (CLC) on August 8th, handing out baseball cards and engaging in some friendly banter.
Retired Major League Baseball umpire Larry Barnett shares a laugh with U.S. Army Veteran David Tyree in the Community Living Center (CLC) at Dallas VA Medical Center.
Larry Barnett was a Major League Baseball umpire for nearly 38 years, participating in four World Series, ultimately retiring from the game in 1999. He’s visited VA hospitals since 1977 as part of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) VA Voluntary Service Program. During this 42-year period, Barnett has made over 3,200 visits to 172 VA hospitals.
This trip to VA North Texas was especially bittersweet, as it will likely be his last to the Dallas campus as he transitions into full-time retirement and life off the road at age 74.
“I’ve been to every VA hospital in the country to visit Veterans,” said Barnett. “Just to say hello to a Veteran is meaningful.”
U.S. Navy Veteran Russell Moore heard about Barnett coming to visit the CLC and made plans to attend. Moore secured a spot an hour and a half early to meet the legendary umpire.
Retired Major League Baseball umpire Larry Barnett visits with U.S. Marine Corps Veteran David Grimm in the Community Living Center (CLC) at Dallas VA Medical Center.
“I really wanted to meet the guy,” said Moore. “He was a super nice guy and I think we need more people like him to come visit the Veterans. Some of the Veterans don’t have any family or friends and it seems like sometimes they are forgotten about. These visits really help.”
Barnett met with Veterans in the CLC and the intensive care units at the hospital during his visit.
“You can see how Larry takes these visits personally and genuinely likes visiting with the Veterans,” said Jerry Hopkins, Chief, Recreation Therapy Service. “He’s just a good guy who really supports our Veterans.”
Hopkins is a long time VA employee and has worked with Barnett at all four VA hospitals he’s worked at dating back to 1990. Hopkins hosts similar visits to VA North Texas at least twice per month.
Barnett’s hospital visits will come full circle for him as his last scheduled visit to a VA hospital later this year will be at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center, which happens to be the site of his very first visit over four decades ago.
“I know how lucky I am to be able to be here. If I can make one person happy during a visit, it’ll be a good visit,” said Barnett.
Jennifer Roy is a public affairs specialist with VA North Texas Health Care System