Friday, July 20, 2007

Nathan Barnes remembered

AMERICAN FORK - Kevin Barnes got a call from his wife, Donna, around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday asking him to come home from work because a master sergeant and a military chaplain were at their home in this northern Utah County city.

Their 23-year-old son, Sgt. Nathan Barnes, had been serving his first mission in Iraq with the Army's 10th Mountain Division, an infantry unit out of Fort Drum, N.Y. The Barneses knew the news they were going to get about their son was not good.

Early Tuesday, Nathan Barnes had gone on an assault mission with his unit. The helicopter he was in was taking fire when it landed and troops began to exit.

"As they opened the door, he caught one," his he stood on the front lawn of his home surrounded by family, friends and U.S. flags.

He and his wife had just one question for the chaplain.

"We asked them if there was any chance of a mistake," Kevin Barnes said. "They said, no."

Nathan Barnes was born in American Fork and went to high school here. He loved camping, hiking, hunting and being in the outdoors, his family said.

Nathan Barnes joined the Army when he was 19 and had already given three years of service to his country when he died. He was shipped to Baghdad in August and was scheduled to return home toward the end of this year.

Nathan Barnes' older sister Lisa Blake said her brother was smart, and loved to read and discuss books with her. They corresponded by e-mail several times a week. The last e-mail Nathan Barnes sent his sister was written an hour before he was killed, she said. It promised a letter and some stories would arrive in the mail. Nathan's e-mail didn't hint at what the stories were about, and now Blake must wait for her brother's last gift to arrive.

"He was philosophical and intelligent and so smart," Blake said.

Danger was part of Nathan Barnes' everyday life. His sister said he had several near-death experiences in Iraq, including bullets whizzing within six inches of his head during a gunfight with insurgents. Once he nearly tripped on a wire that was rigged to an explosive while entering a home. And he suffered minor injuries when a bomb hidden in a trash can exploded.

"We affectionately called him our little soldier," Kevin Barnes said.

Nathan Barnes' mother Donna stayed in the family home Wednesday.

"She's not doing that good," Blake said. "She misses her son and she's sad."

Nathan was Kevin and Donna Barnes' fifth child. He had three older brothers, Jay, Tim and Mike, an older sister, Blake, and a younger brother, Matthew, who is serving an LDS Church mission in Nicaragua.

"We were all really close," said Tim Barnes.

Several members of the Barnes family, including Nathan's grandparents and uncles served in World War II and Vietnam War respectively, said Kevin Barnes.

Nathan "just felt like he wanted to do it [too]," he said. "He understood it takes a soldier's sacrifice to ensure peace and freedom."

Nathan Barnes loved children and was planning to go to college to study to be a physician's assistant when he was discharged. His family has set up a fund at Zions Bank that is expected to benefit kids and military families, Kevin Barnes said.

Blake said she would always remember her brother's "infectiously happy and positive," attitude.

"He was always grinning from ear to ear," said Blake.

Nathan Barnes' body is expected to return to the U.S. within the next two weeks. Funeral services are pending.

"He was a good kid and a wonderful young man," his father said.

From the Salt Lake Tribune

Related Link:
Nathan Barnes reported killed in Iraq