For many, Memorial Day brings a long weekend filled with BBQs and time to visit family. For those of us that have served, Memorial Day brings reflection on our fallen comrades, veteran fathers and the great warriors of the past.
Recently, one such great warrior, who embodies all that we enlisted soldiers strive to achieve, was killed serving his nation and doing what he did best, commanding his “Bobcats” in battle.
Command Sergeant Major Martin Barreras, of Tucson, Arizona, died Tuesday at the San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas at the age of 49. He died from wounds suffered on May 6 in Herat province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.
CSM Barreras started his service in the Marine Corps and five years later he joined the Army. He did a very respectable 22 years with the 75th Ranger Regiment. CSM Barreras completed multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Restore/Uphold Democracy in Haiti, and various other special operations. CSM Barreras also served as the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit.
A true warrior, he was the top enlisted soldier for his unit in Ft. Bliss and his Bobcats knew him as “Gunny.” As with many Rangers, CSM Barreras had a great deal of humility.
Most know that this honorable soldier was a part of the Jessica Lynch rescue operation. Fox News reports that a friend and fellow Ranger said that Barreras was a member of the Army battalion that conducted the successful rescue of Lynch from an Iraqi hospital. The friend said Barreras personally handed Lynch to another soldier to transfer her to the helicopter that evacuated her. Barreras then fended off multiple attacks in order to retrieve all 9 of the bodies of the other U.S. soldiers missing in action to bring them back home.
Martin Barreras is survived by his wife, three children, three grandchildren, his parents and two brothers. This weekend when you have a moment to reflect on our fallen comrades, remember “Gunny” and when you raise your flag in the front yard, think of his family. As for so many others, Memorial Day will now have an extra special meaning for the Barreras family, and they should know that we all care. We can share his memory so that future Rangers can learn of all that CSM Barreras embodied and of the great warrior he was.
His awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with V device, Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Iraqi Campaign Medal with three stars, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with four stars, Combat Infantryman Badge with one star, Expert Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab, Master Parachutist Badge with bronze star, Military Freefall Badge and Pathfinder Badge.