Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Soldiers grieve for NCO known as ‘the standard’

Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO

PATROL BASE DRAGON, Iraq — The gathered Soldiers are somber, standing in the patchy sunlight that streams into the remains of a Russian-built thermal power plant on the banks of Iraq’s Euphrates River.
They are gathered to mourn Sgt. Nathaniel Barnes, a native of American Fork, Utah, who was killed in action while on an air assault near the patrol base July 17.
Capt. Shane Finn, a native of Clinton, N.Y., and commander of Company C, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., with whom Barnes served, spoke fondly of him.
“The day after Sgt. Barnes’ family was told of his death, the community of American Fork lined the streets of the small town with over 400 flags,” Finn said. “His family had planned a huge hero’s welcome for his return from the deployment, and the same sign they planned to hang in November is hanging on their front porch now. It reads, ‘Sgt. Nathan Barnes, returning home with honor.’”
Barnes served as Finn’s radio-telephone operator.
“He took the brunt of most of my dramatic outbursts,” Finn recalled. “My platoon leaders will never know how many times I have fired them and cursed them out, because Barnes …allowed me to vent and get things off my chest. He reminded me of my own younger brother, who happens to be the same age. Other times the roles would reverse, and I would find myself looking up to him.”
Sgt. Jarod Phillips, a native of Oklahoma City and a team leader with the company, delivered a passionate eulogy to his friend and recalled the family Barnes was known for being close to.
“We took turns buying anime series and never letting anyone else know the depth of our geek tendencies. On July 17, a family lost a son, a brother, and an uncle. We owe a debt of gratitude to his family; they were the beginning of what he would come to be. They were the origin of a great man. With all his siblings, his parents had brought a squad-sized element of Barnes’ into the world. We knew him a short time, and he touched us deeply, but they had the honor of knowing him his whole life. Remember them in your grief, for all the loss you feel could not come close to theirs.”
“He was the most caring guy you could ever meet,” said Spc. Christopher Speich, a scout with Co. C and a native of Columbus, Ohio. “He loved hiking, boating, all of it – he loved Utah and his home and family more than anything else. There’s not enough good to say about him; he was just full of life and he’d do anything for people. He always had that crooked smile.”
Spc. Scott Debois, a rifleman with Co. C and a native of Norhert Park, Calif., recalled him as a good friend.
“He was a devoted family guy; he called them every Sunday he could. He really took care of his Soldiers, and he loved his job and took it seriously.”
“Guard jealously your memories of him,” said Phillips. “Fight against the haze of time, struggle against whatever might steal from you the fact that you worked and lived alongside one of the finest men to walk this earth.”
Barnes is survived by his parents, Kevin and Donna Barnes of American Fork, Utah.
His awards and decorations include a Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart Medal, an Army Achievement Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, an Iraqi Campaign Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, an Army Service Ribbon, a Parachutist Badge and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

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