Army Vet Cleans Trash Around Virginia Town Because 'This Country Is Worth It'

Richard Baker smokes a pipe as he picks up trash on the main street of Front Royal, Virginia — a colonial town more than an hour outside of Washington, DC.

“When I first got here, there was trash everywhere down around town,” Baker said. “When I finally said I was going to retire, I decided I would do something for the town because people have been really good to me here. And so I started picking it up.”

Richard Baker (Matt Perdie/Breitbart News)

He’s been picking up litter for three years now for the town of 15,000. Some of the locals call him Popeye, but Baker is no sailor man. He joined the army in 1971, following in the footsteps of his father who fought in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War and his grandfather who served before the start of World War One. All three men served as noncommissioned officers, a source of pride for Baker. 

Ready to fight in Vietnam, Baker had orders sending him to Germany instead. He planned to be a career soldier, but he was injured while skydiving with his infantry unit in Hawaii in 1979. Baker broke his leg, requiring surgery. He spent four months in the hospital. Baker retired as a staff sergeant. 

“Here I am,” Baker said. “I wanted to do career, but the surgeon is giving me the bad word, so I got out. I didn’t want to. I miss it every day, so eventually I wound up here.”

No matter what the weather is, Baker will be outside collecting trash, using a reach grabber tool he got from the hospital years ago.

“People ask me, ‘aren’t you afraid to get wet?’” Baker said. “I told them I was infantry. It’s just water man. No big deal to me.  I went out one night and found out it was 19 degrees. It’s one of things you learn, you have to learn in the infantry just to ignore the weather.”

Baker has collected jackets left on park benches, wool hats, and even a couple of leather jackets. He gave one of the jackets to a neighbor. While Baker said he finds enjoyment cleaning up the town, he said it’s also good for his arthritis to keep his joints moving.

But there are other ways to exercise, and Baker is asked, ‘why not leave it up to the city?’” He replied:

 I’m an American. This is my country. I was born and raised here. I was born in Fort Riley, Kansas when my dad was stationed here after he came back from Korea in 1951. I was born in 1952. I do it because I want to, because it’s something I need. I actually, you’re gonna laugh at this, but I actually enjoy doing it. 

At 71-years-old, Baker said he would take a bullet for this country, just like his Uncle Richard — who died in a cruiser battle in August 1942 during the Battle of Savo Island. 

“We lost three American cruisers and one Australian Cruiser,” Baker said. “My uncle was in U.S.S Quincy and he died when his ship was sunk.”

The cruiser was the first sunk in the area later known as Iron Bottom Sound, leaving 370 men dead and 167 wounded. 

Baker’s father was very close with his uncle, and he said he would never talk about it. 

“My Uncle Richard was the fair-haired boy with a 1940s curl wave that men wore in their hair,” Baker said. “He was a good-looking young guy, just 21.  I’ve always said that when people say that this country is not worth it. Don’t say that around me. Remember, my family died so we didn’t have to learn to speak Japanese.”

Fifty years ago, Baker attended a reunion of seven or eight servicemen who were aboard the Quincy

“I learned all kinds of things about what happened that night from these guys who were there,” Baker said. 

Baker got the men aboard the original U.S.S Quincy to sign a United States Navy flag for him in remembrance of an uncle he never met. 

“It may not matter to anybody else, but it does to me because I’m named after him,” Baker said. “He is my namesake. When people say this country isn’t worth fighting for, I have my doubts about whether we’re going to make it in the long run because of what’s going on right now.” 

From the growing influence of Communist China to the leftist indoctrination of our youth, Baker fears that the young ones won’t fight for America.

“I sure hope it wasn’t for nothing, that my dad’s buddies died, that Uncle Rich died,” Baker said. “This country is worth it.”

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