Aspiring PJ honors Mom

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Instead of waking up to the sound of an alarm clock Aug. 5, 2008, Stevie Barnes woke up to the sound of his father yelling, "Call 911!"

Stevie's mother, Master Sgt. Norma Barnes, lost her ongoing five-year battle with medical issues on what would have been his first day of senior year.

Three years later, 21-year-old Stevie is now on track to become a pararescueman, better known as a PJ, or combat rescue officer (CRO), complete with the 'quiet professional' persona. He will be a step closer to this dream when he starts Air Force ROTC at the local Valdosta State University this term.

"They believe so strongly in the concept of 'never leave a man behind' and with losing my mom, I wouldn't want to leave someone else's parent behind," he explained with passion. "She pushed 'Service before Self' beyond anything you can imagine, and I try to honor her in everything I do."

He began with using the number 805 on his motocross and paintball jerseys, representative of the day she passed away. On the evening of Dec. 27, 2011, Stevie found himself in a barber's chair getting 16 inches of hair sheared off to donate to Locks of Love in his mother's memory, something he hopes will also make him more aerodynamic in the pool and on the track.

"Stevie obviously got her sense of humor, and her hair. He grew up watching the unwavering example of 'Service before Self' that his Mom lived daily ... her high work ethic, absolute integrity, rock solid faith in God, love of family and passion for serving our great nation," said Steve Barnes, his father and 23rd Force Support Squadron commercial sponsorship coordinator.

Serving as a constant reminder of the motivation he knows he will need to succeed as a Special Operations Airman and the strength his mother showed during her battle, Stevie has a tattoo on his left forearm -- "When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on so long in the first place."

"The mental aspect of the career I want is so important -- you can't give up," he said. "My whole life, seeing what she did motivated me. If she was here, she would push me even harder to reach my goals. She wouldn't ever let me slack."

His goal of becoming a PJ or CRO is a tough one -- only about 10 percent of Airmen who start the course will ever finish it. Once he starts classes at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga., this fall, the classes required for his kinesiology major will give him some preparation for the in-depth medical training he'll have to face.

To prepare for the physical demands of these career fields, he regularly runs, weight trains twice a day, bikes and swims. He completes the workout daily and is training for multiple endurance events.

Members who make it through all the training become part of a group known as Battlefield Airmen. Information about these careers can be found at this Air Force website:

Stevie Barnes lives his life by the values his mother taught him. Whether they are Air Force Core Values or family values, he is prepared to do what it takes to help those who can't help themselves.