Jim Barlow’s face is radiant. The man is a smiler, and so is his wife, Marla.
The North Kamloops couple has a lot to be happy about, having been among the first in the city to receive their COVID-19 vaccines.
For the past year, like so many others, their gracious grins have remained hidden beneath the cover of a coronavirus pandemic.
No hugs or kisses for their 13 great-grandchildren. No taste of sunshine on their faces from visits to destination hot-spots.
But, the possibility of a return to a new normal is inching closer by the day, as the province advances its rollout of vaccines and people continue to practice mask-wearing and social distancing.
Recently, Barlow was among Canadian veterans of the Korean War to receive a pandemic care package of high quality KF94 masks from the Korean Consulate in Vancouver.
The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. The conflict lasted just over three years.
In an effort to show their gratitude to Korean War veterans across the world, the Korean government, specifically the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, shipped 2 million face masks to countries who were members of the UN Allies fighting in the Korean War. 30,000 of those were distributed through the Vancouver Consulate.
Barlow says he is very impressed with continuing support and recognition from the Korean government for Canadian veterans’ service overseas.
Now, at 90 years of age, Barlow remembers fighting as a leading seaman in the Canadian Navy during the Korean War, before retiring (twice) as a lieutenant-commander, spanning a 40-year career.
“It was 1952 when I was over there — 69 years ago. Unlike our own government, they haven’t forgotten about the people who volunteered to go over and defend their country, and they keep repaying it in small ways,” Barlow said. “I think it’s a touch of class.”
Before the pandemic began, the couple was travelling about every three months. Now, they mask up and head out for groceries every three days.
Since the local casinos have closed, Barlow says with a grin, “I’m making nothing but money now.”
They hope to be travelling once again, seeing their family and flashing a smile.