By Sarah Colson
“Our love of veterans began when we were on active duty,” Brenda Barnette recalls. That love only grew stronger throughout her 51-year marriage to husband Jimmy, and remains strong today, though Jimmy passed away last September.
Jimmy joined the United States army in 1954. At that time, he was dating his sweetheart, Brenda, then the director of instructional support for the Defense Information School in Ft. Mead, Md. After reaching the rank of Sergeant First Class, Jimmy was promoted to First Lieutenant and served in the Vietnam conflict and completed 33 years of service.
“He started it all,” Barnette says of the couple’s long-time service to veterans. “I give him due credit for every participation we did in veteran’s organizations because he opened the door. I was not a veteran. He stayed busy with his causes and his philosophy was to pay it forward and pay it back.”
Brenda was honored recently with the Excellence in Community Service Award from the Ann Robertson chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Her award was merited by her contributions to community service aimed at helping the lives of veterans.
“We started all this together,” Barnette says of the work she and her husband did to construct the Veteran’s Memorial on Market Street. “I definitely will continue the work and I’m also becoming a volunteer at the VA (Veteran’s Association) because that’s what he did. I’m trying to carry on his legacy as much as possible.”
Part of carrying on that legacy means continuing the work on the Veteran’s Memorial. Jimmy was a founding member of the Johnson City-Washington County Veteran’s Memorial Committee.
“We started it together with getting the design and then raising the money to build it,” Barnette says, “and now the sweet part is, when Jimmy passed, I asked people to make donations to the Veterans Memorial.”
Those funds raised $7,000, which will go towards phase three of the memorial, building the third circle of granite around it.
“So Jimmy’s legacy continues,” Barnette adds.
After returning home from service, Jimmy was active not only on the Veterans Memorial Committee, but also as a volunteer at the VA. Barnette was also active in serving the veterans of the community and plans on remaining a volunteer at the VA.
“When someone is very deserving in the community,” says Martha Nan Meridith, member of DAR, “you send in all the information you can find about projects they have taken on. You have to go through all the hoops through the state and on the national level to convince them that this person is very deserving of this award. And Brenda is more than deserving.”