In 1993, Army Spc. Noe Barrientos moved to the United States with his parents from war torn Guatemala. He was just 7 years old when his parents escaped the dangers of the violent drug trade.
Barrientos, who now hails from Corpus Christi, Texas, is a permanent resident who aspires to become a U.S. citizen by the end of the year, but he didn’t join the National Guard to become a naturalized citizen.
Like many high school graduates, he initially enlisted, in part, for the college benefits available.
As is the case with many soldiers who enlist for similar reasons, Barrientos discovered that he enjoyed serving his nation in its time of need. He said he truly appreciates the opportunities that his family’s move to the United States afforded him.
“I couldn’t afford college just by working at Jason’s Deli, so I enlisted in the National Guard,” Barrientos said. “This way, I figured I could get some money for school and be able to give a little back to the country that has given so much to me and my family.”
Three short years later, Barrientos earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University Kingsville in May.
“I have had two job offers since graduation in the construction industry, so I will probably go right to work when we get back from deployment,” he said.
Barrientos is a combat engineer with the 836th Engineer Company, 890th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, Multinational Division Baghdad. He drives a vehicle known as an RG-31, a specialized vehicle used for the company’s route-clearance mission. It is not an easy task, considering the Baghdad traffic and the need to remain vigilant for roadside bombs.
“Noe is always eager to learn to new things and becomes very proficient in a short amount of time,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jared Nelson, who hails from Hockley, Texas, and is Barrientos’ squad leader. “When you hear about guys like Noe, and the opportunities that they have taken advantage of, you say to yourself, ‘Yeah, that is what America is all about.’”