FORT CARSON, CO (SSG Daniel Carter) – Decades later, the memories of fallen Green Berets represent important pieces in the legacies and histories of their units, comrades, and families. Memorials come in many forms, paying tribute and honoring these brave souls, their service, and their sacrifice. One such memorial was recently rediscovered in the form of a geocache located on a mountain peak overlooking Colorado Springs, Colo., the ‘Paul Barclay Stash.’
Geocaching, a popular hobby enjoyed by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, is a hidden-container, seek-and-find challenge that requires inputting coordinates into a Global Positioning System (GPS) device to find a cache’s location.
The ‘Paul Barclay Stash’ was placed in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Paul Barclay, an 18E Special Forces Communications Sergeant assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), who perished tragically on April 14, 1994 in Iraq while in support of Operation Provide Comfort II. The incident was a mistake. Barclay and 25 others were flying in a pair of UH60 Black Hawk helicopters when they were shot down by U.S. fighter aircraft, which had mistakenly identified them as enemy over the skies of Northern Iraq.
The tragedy has not been forgotten by the Special Forces Community, and the loss remains in the hearts of many who are still within the organization.
Barclay’s geocache memorial was originally placed early in the year of 2000 by a fellow Green Beret Soldier and personal friend, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Terry Shelton. Shelton placed the memorial on the peak in close proximity to the 10th SFG (A) Headquarters at Fort Carson, which was to be Barclay’s assignment upon completion of his tour in Iraq.
According to Shelton, the Paul Barclay Stash is one of Colorado’s oldest emplaced geocaches. Due to its age and status, the Paul Barclay Stash is a highly desirable geocache to visit among enthusiasts. One such explorer is Michael Crowe, a former Special Forces Soldier who is now a recovery care coordinator with the Special Operations Command Care Coalition. Crowe recently located Barclay’s geocache on an afternoon hike with his dog on Mays Peak in North Cheyenne Canyon.
“I like to say, I’m a casual geocacher, and I always have my global positioning system with me with preloaded locations,” Crowe said. “There was one in the area named the ‘Paul Barclay Stash,’ and I had no idea it had anything to do with 10th Group, but when I went up there and found it and opened it up, there was a heartfelt dedication to Paul from a former teammate and friend.”
Given his close connection to the Special Forces Community, Crowe decided to share his discovery on social media. He took a picture of the top page of the biography within the cache and posted the photo online. Soon after the photo was posted, Barclay’s sister, Katie Barclay, saw the photo.
“Originally, when Michael had taken the photo, a friend had tagged me in it. At first I was overwhelmed,” explained Katie. “When I learn new things about my brother, it gets emotional.”
Since Katie recently moved to Colorado, Crowe invited her to come and visit the geocache. She accepted the invitation and brought along her two children, Paul and Luke, and her dog, Nano for the hike. She was accompanied and supported by several members and employees of 10th Group as they paid tribute to Paul with the climb up Mays Peak on Aug 29, 2015.
“It’s pretty wonderful how Michael Crowe guided me, even though he doesn’t know me,” Katie said. “He invited people from Group, and they came along with us. It was special.”
Shelton originally placed the geocache in an accessible location at a modest elevation of just over 8,000 feet. The moderate level of difficulty, along with its majestic views and its status as one of the oldest in Colorado, make the Paul Barclay Stash one of the most visited geocaches in the state.
“I was really honored to know that Paul had such a good friend that would create a memorial in such a beautiful place,” said Katie. “It helps educate people around the world, and in the area, about what my brother did.”
Katie explained that Barclay was popular throughout high school and he had many friends. He struggled as a student, however, and then surprised everyone when he joined the Army in 1988.
“It was unexpected. My father had been in the Army for several years,” said Katie. “But it was not something Paul talked about [joining the Army] when he was younger. It was about him trying to find purpose in his life.”
According to Katie, being a part of the Army was something that gave Barclay the purpose in life he was looking for.
“It was something that he was very engaged in. He found it very motivating,” Katie explained. “He was very driven. It was the kind of engaged learning that he liked and it really drove him to reach for higher levels.”
Although Barclay’s life and career were cut short, he left behind a legacy remembered by many.
“From what I can tell, from people like Terry Shelton, Paul had some amazing friends who are still in contact with me today,” said Katie. “It shows the kind of people he attracted, the kind of people that he surrounded himself with. It shows that he was an amazing person.”
Katie explained that, not only was it amazing to see the geocache memorial for herself, it was also just as amazing for her son, Paul, to learn more about his namesake.
As time moves forward, through memories of Paul’s life, his service as a Green Beret, and the unique memorial overlooking the vast plains of Colorado, the Barclay Family, his friends, and colleagues continue to remember and carry on the legacy of Paul, who was characterized as a warm and generous person, a Leader, and an excellent Soldier.