A Veteran’s Story: 1SG Armando Barnhart

Armando Barnhart, a disabled veteran who was injured during his deployments, proudly served 21 years and 10 days in the Army, and retired at Fort Huachuca, Arizona at the rank of First Sergeant. He is a humble man, but his story is not only interesting, its inspiring.

Growing up in a family of migrant workers based in Immokalee, Barnhart has never really been a stranger to hard work. From a very young age, he and his family were employed in the fields and packing houses working crops like tomatoes, watermelon, and even going to Texas in the summers to work corn. Working to keep their house on New Market Road, where his father still resides today, meant there was little time for sports or other hobbies.

His first year at Immokalee High School, he joined the JROTC program. JROTC was something he excelled at, being quickly promoted to platoon sergeant during his freshman year. He went on to become company commander and spent his last two years as the senior commander. Determined to find a way out of the harsh lifestyle of a migrant worker, he joined the Army with the support of his parents at the age of 17. He then spent his 18th birthday in basic training at Fort Knox just after graduating from high school.

Once again, he excelled during basic training, and ended up being one of the top graduates of his class. Barnhart says, “My first assignment was Germany and from there I spent my 21st birthday in Zakho, Iraq, my first deployment. Most people were out getting drunk on their 21st, not me, I was out in support of Operations Provide Comfort.” He also, served in Europe, had several assignments throughout the United States and the Pacific, and went to both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

When asked what he would tell anyone who was considering joining the military, he had this to say: “If you want good things to happen to you in life, no one is going to give it to you. Go out, work hard and it will pay off. I was just doing my job. I was just doing my part. Some people are good at being servers at a restaurant, or they’re good at landscaping, or they’re good at building houses – I wasn’t good at that. I was good at being a Soldier, I got lucky and found my calling.”

From the very start of his Army career, he noticed just how much his childhood had prepared him when it came to facing challenges. It was often harder for other soldiers, many of whom had never experienced truly hard work, nor had they seen poor living conditions. Barnhart being a determined person, with a persevering work ethic, he continued to rise through the ranks quickly. He attributes his strengths directly to his Immokalee roots. Though he lived a hard life and persevered through hard times as a youth growing up in Immokalee, he was blessed with infinite amounts of love and support from his parents and other family members. As he puts it, “All of my aunts and uncles and cousins were always proud of me and cheering me on.” He went on to say that this kind of unwavering foundation is typical of the families in the area.

Currently he works as a Risk Management Analyst for the United States Army Cyber Command and the United States Army Network, Enterprise and Technology Command. Despite suffering from the physical and mental scars that our warriors often carry, Barnhart continues to work hard and lives an upbeat and active lifestyle. He doesn’t let his PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, or the aches and pains of a body that he, himself, equates to a “high mileage car” stop him from enjoying life. He travels for work, and is a self-described foodie who enjoys playing pool, working out at the gym, and riding his motorcycle. He is also the proud father of two lovely daughters.

He closed our interview with the following message: “To any of my brothers out there struggling: You’re not alone. We all have demons, we all have regrets and we all wish things could be different from some perspective. Keep the faith and reach out! The VA has programs and will set you up with counseling if you need it. And to all of you – thank you for being the less than one percent who volunteered to serve this country.”

Danika can be reached at dhopper@newszap.com

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