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November 30
14:24 2018
THE REPORTER: News Staff, -   

Features are normally about people who are still among our midst, but this one young lady accomplished so many goals and displayed so much positivity in the 22 years that she lived that I felt she deserved acknowledgement for it posthumously.

The sudden death in September of US soldier Adrienne C Barillas, (Private First Class) is still shrouded in mystery, with the results of the post mortem examination pending even two months after her passing at Camp Humphreys military base in South Korea, where she was assigned. But her sterling achievements, her leadership qualities, her exceptional cooking skills and her magnetic personality are what people are still talking about. The comments about her can be compared to raving reviews an author of a blockbuster book receives upon publication. So I decided to revisit her life and share her story as an example for more young people her age. I never got to meet Adrienne, but her mom, Emogene Lopez and I were classmates at Pallotti, so her story was not difficult for me to retrieve.

Adrienne graduated at the top of her Military class as the Distinguished Honor Graduate in 2017 and was deployed to South Korea as a member of the 11th Combat Engineer Battalion and the Combat Aviation Brigade. She quickly earned The Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon, and was a water purification specialist, at the 11th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, and the Certificate of Achievement.

But these accomplishments were no overnight occurrence. There had been signs etched in her destiny from childhood days. Emogene shared with me that she realized Adrienne was going to be a trailblazer from the age of eight, when the family was going through difficulties. “She stepped in as a little negotiator and leader. She planned and arranged family gatherings to bring us together; forced us to interact with each other to continue to build that family bond. She would enlist the help of family members to help her make these family events a reality,” Emogene recollected.

This for me was remarkable, because at age eight, children are normally looking to their parents, guardians or older siblings to “fix” situations of this magnitude rather than to take matters into their own hands.

“Even at that age,” Emogene continued, “she started to display her leadership skills. She always wanted to be in charge – the leader….those qualities that Adrienne was exhibiting told me without a doubt that she would make an impact on the people around and shine. She was fearless as a child and when someone told her she couldn’t do something she showed them that she could and excelled.”

Adrienne went to Saint Joseph’s Primary School, where she was class treasurer; and later – Vice President of Pallotti High School’s Student Council. When she graduated as a Water Treatment Specialist from the United Stated Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Virginia, in October of last year, it was with Distinguished Honor. When she received the Army Commendation Medal, the US Military declared that “Private First Class Barillas demonstrated leadership, selfless service and unparalleled commitment to mission accomplishment integral to the Unit’s success. Her professionalism is in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon herself, The 11th Engineer Battalion, The 2D Combat Aviation Brigade, The 2D Infantry ROK-US Combined Division and The United States Army.”

In the classroom setting Adrienne never toed the line and exuded volunteerism. Her mom remembers that she was always dedicating after-school hours to some fundraiser or the other to assist the institution.

At home, she was the “natural nurturer”, Emogene said proudly. “She didn’t like conflict and tried to steer clear of it and often played the role of peacekeeper,” her mom said. But Adrienne also had a normal side to her personality and was somewhat of a “party freak,” often throwing parties at home before she moved away and joined the military and also often times “disturbing the peace,” her mother recalled jokingly, quoting Adrienne’s motto: “I’m living my best life.”

Adrienne’s positive outlook on life, always seeing the glass as being half full rather than half empty, was what carried her through her short time here. She remained positive in every situation. And she also knew what she wanted. Her mother said that even before her family migrated to the US in September of 2015, Adrienne had her future planned. When she told her mom she wanted to join the military, it surprised her, she shared. Although she was already a water purification expert, Adrienne’s goal was to study to become a nurse and she was in the process of applying for Officer Candidate School to make the Military her permanent career, Emogene told us.

Adrienne disliked that people thought the Military was for men and that women couldn’t compete. Even though she was prissy, she was tough. “She knew in her soul that she was going to excel in the army; she had no doubt. Why she felt this way I honestly can’t say – she just knew,” Emogene added.

But while Adrienne loved the military, there was one thing about a soldier’s life she didn’t like – the food, and her hidden cooking skills emerged when she left for Korea with the military. “We would Facetime while she was preparing her chicken for stew chicken and put together the ingredients for rice and beans. … She mastered our Belize rice and beans, stew chicken and potato salad and every time she cooked she would share her food with her friends and they fell in love with it,” her mom said.

“She was well beyond her years,” to quote from her mom. But the things this young Belizean was able to accomplish in only 22 years of life are milestones that far surpass those of others who double or triple her lifespan.


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