Family members, veterans honor fallen Tucson soldier

Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras (Source: US Army)
Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras (Source: US Army)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Gov. Jan Brewer is asking all Arizonans to lower their flags to half-staff on Friday, in honor of a Tucson soldier who died May 13 from wounds suffered in Afghanistan last week.

The family of Command Sergeant Major Martin Barreras gathered at his south-side home to remember and honor the loss of a beloved son, father, brother and grandfather.

49-year-old Martin Barreras was a graduate of Sunnyside High School.  His brother Andy Barreras said he was deeply moved after the 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. That's when he decided to enlist.

Barreras' mother said she was washing dishes when her son came home from school and told her he was enlisting.  She was not too thrilled about the idea at first, but said she fully supported her son and was proud of him.

Barreras became a highly decorated soldier, and one of the highest ranking enlisted soldiers serving in combat. He was the senior enlisted soldier for 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, which is part of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, TX.

His brother said Barreras did not have to be on the front lines of Operation Enduring Freedom, but he chose to be there.

Veterans at the American Legion Post 132 agreed.

"49-years old.  He could have been sitting behind a desk.  Some say that's maybe where he belonged at that age. But no,  Barreras was not that kind of guy.  He wanted to be right there with his guys," said the commander of the post, addressing veterans there for their regular meeting.

On a night when they were hosting an installation of officers, members of American Legion Post 132 took off their hats, bowed their heads, and prayed for the family of Command Sgt. Major Barreras.

"A guy with his rank, they might be in the country you know, but usually outside the wire as we say, that's where people get hurt," said Bob Phillips, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Officials with the Department of Defense said Barreras was injured when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire, in the Harat province of Afghanistan last week.

Barreras succumbed to his injuries at the San Antonio Military Medical Center two days ago.

Barreras's family described him as the kind of guy who was the first guy in, last guy out. He had already been wounded in combat several times.  Barreras was a highly decorated soldier with three Purple Heart medals, and several Bronze Stars, among others.

Andy Barreras said his brother even lost a finger while serving.  He showed us a sculpture they had created several years ago, showing three pairs of hands intertwined.  He pointed out Barreras' hand, with one finger missing.

Family members said Barreras was a humble guy who hated being in the spotlight. He did not like fanfare of any kind.  That is why they declined to go on camera, saying Barreras would have hated all of this attention.

Veterans at the American Legion Post saluted his sacrifice, calling him a true American hero.

"He's the old guy that says put it on me. Let me be the one to take it.  It's a great loss for Tucson.  Great loss for the Army.  Great loss for America, to lose a man like Martin Barreras."

Family members are planning a memorial to honor Barreras in Tucson.  Tucson News Now will have the details once they are finalized.

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