By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Yukon’s American Legion post is making it possible for a decorated local veteran to attend an event in another state where his “big brother” of 25 years will be honored.
Sean Barnette, a fireman/paramedic at Tinker Air Force Base and a U.S. military veteran, became a “little brother” at age 12 while growing up in Idaho through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.
Barnette recently learned his big brother “match” will be recognized on April 10 at an Idaho Big Brothers/Big Sisters awards gala. His “big brother” Fred Schmidt is being honored for the lasting impact he’s had on a young person.
Barnette, who has lived in Oklahoma since 2011, stays in contact with Schmidt. He remains friends with the man who served so many years as his “father figure” and influencer while he was being raised in Idaho.
After learning about recent struggles that Barnette has endured, the Yukon American Legion Post 160 this week agreed to donate funds so he can travel to Idaho and participate in the awards ceremony.
Barnette’s mother-in-law, Yukon’s Marlene M. Webster, said his heart for his country and humanity is a true inspiration.
“I wanted to mention how much our family appreciates the Yukon American Legion and their commitment to help their fellow veterans,” said Webster, Oklahoma wing administrator for the Civil Air Patrol at Tinker AFB.
“After visiting the legion, it was amazing and very educational to see what services they support. They are truly an organization made up of amazing individuals.”
Yukon American Legion Post Commander Eddie “Mac” McFadden invited Webster to speak at this month’s American Legion meeting, where members approved the donation for Barnette’s trip to Idaho.
McFadden said the Legion was proud to support a fellow veteran member.
“We are helping one of our own,” McFadden said. “He’s one of us.”
The post commander referred to a sign to be erected at the Legion building that states: “Veterans Helping Veterans, Families and Communities.”
Webster learned about Yukon’s American Legion from member Rick Cacini, who she knew through the Civil Air Patrol.
“I told Rick that I really hated the thought of Sean missing this awards gala,” Webster said.
“I just thought it was so important for him to go.
“I went (to the Legion meeting) and briefly told Sean’s story. They were nice enough to give him the money for his plane ticket.”
‘GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND’
Near the end of high school, Barnette joined the Army and served as a combat medic. He later became a fireman in the Air Force.
While serving in Afghanistan, Barnette earned the Air Force Achievement Medal for supporting at least 75 special forces missions as a medic.
During his military service, he also earned the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Air Force Longevity Service Award.
Besides his duties as a fireman/paramedic at Tinker AFB, Barnette has taken on extra tasks to serve and keep safe members of the military and the employees at the base.
Because of his dedication to service, he was nominated and earned the 2018 Civilian Air Force Achievement Medal for “going above and beyond” by saving a life at Tinker AFB.
He also was nominated for the 2019 Tinker Mid Del 100 Award, given to first responders who are chosen by a group of civic leaders in the community.
“Sean has a heart for serving his community and fellow service members,” Webster said of her son-in-law. “It’s not uncommon for Sean to stop if he sees anybody in need anywhere. He’s just that type of person.”