Charles Barber never got to ride.
As a black child, he wasn’t allowed on the school bus, so he would walk the three miles to school, watching as the bus, with his classmates inside, barreled noisily by.
“As I walked to school, those busses full of kids would just drive past,” Barber said. “I always wanted to be on that bus.”
At 87, Barber has lived a full life. He’s a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars; he spent 29 years in the Army, rising to senior leadership as a command sergeant major. He served in the Pentagon and raised a family.
But, there was one thing that kept coming up in conversation with his physical therapist while receiving treatment at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. As a child, when he walked those three miles each morning to school, he would see the school bus, full of kids, drive by. His skin color prevented him from riding with his classmates.
Dream comes true
After all these years, after all he’s accomplished, he still wanted to ride a school bus.
Barber’s physical therapist, Mario Anderson, mentioned the conversations to Dr. Elony May in Physical Therapy, and she had heard his story, too. May decided to call Fort Belvoir Elementary School to see if such a ride was even possible.
The staff at Fairfax County Public Schools, who run the busses for the elementary school, thought it was a worthy detour.
On a sunny Tuesday morning, Charles Barber walked out of Meadows Pavilion, assisted by Anderson, and accompanied by his daughter Cassandra and Dr. May, as his ride awaited.
Wearing sunglasses and a beaming smile, Barber climbed aboard Fairfax County School bus 984.
“I always wanted to be on that bus,” Barber said again, as the bus pulled onto Belvoir Road.
At last, he was.
The young child and accomplished Soldier smiled from the same seat.