Military mom shares her perspective

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- From a soccer mom to a military mom, Loni Barnes of Alexandria shared her perspective at Monday's Memorial Day service at Kinkead Cemetery.

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. -- From a soccer mom to a military mom, Loni Barnes of Alexandria shared her perspective at Monday's Memorial Day service at Kinkead Cemetery.

Her son, Justin Barnes, a 2001 Jefferson High School graduate, is a firefighter/rescue EMT for the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Yuma, Ariz.

Although she is proud to be a military mom now, Loni said when her son first told her and her husband, Joe, that he was joining the military, she was less than thrilled.

After he graduated from high school, Justin went off to college, but school was definitely not his favorite place to be, said Loni.

He made it through his first semester and then Justin came back to Alexandria and worked for a few months.


Then one day, he came home and told his parents that he had made a decision about his life and what he wanted to do. He wanted to join the military; specifically, the United States Marines.

"I wanted to throw up," Loni told the large crowd. "I thought, 'You can't do this, you're my son.'"

She remembers telling her son that he needed to go right down to the recruitment office and tell them that he needed to unenlist because his mom "doesn't want me to go."

Justin told his mother he couldn't do that, it was final and that he was leaving in the fall.

Holding back tears, Loni explained that her son told her he wanted to make a difference in life, in the world, and that he was tired of making the wrong decisions. He wanted to join the Marines because they stood for many things, including integrity.

He respected all branches of the military, but Loni said Justin felt the Marines fit him the best.

"He is now a Marine for life and I couldn't be more proud," she said. "Our freedom comes at high prices, giving up our sons and daughters."

Loni proudly showed everyone at the Memorial Day service the back of the shirt she was wearing, a shirt given to her by her son. The shirt read, "It can't always be someone else's son."


When Justin gave it to her, she started to cry and asked him what it meant. She asked him if it meant he was willing to die. He told her, "You do what you have to do."

She told him, "It doesn't always have to be someone else's mother."

Justin's belief, said Loni, is that he had a purpose in life and no amount of worrying was going to change the outcome.

Loni said Justin served in Fallujah, Ramadi and Al Taqqadum during 2005-2006 Iraqi Freedom War. He has also served in Okinawa, Australia and the Philippines.

He never really shared what he did with his mother, but instead would always tell her, "Don't worry, Mom; it's all good."

Little did Loni know just how dangerous Justin's job really was, and she only found out the truth when he was back home.

Loni said she felt honored to be the guest speaker at the Memorial Day service and that it was one of the most humbling experiences.

She ended her speech with a quote from John F. Kennedy, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."


She concluded by saying, "Freedom is alive and well."

Celeste Beam is a reporter at the Alexandria (Minn.) Echo Press, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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