CPL Josue Barron (USMC, OEF Veteran)

Old breed? New breed? There’s not a damn bit of difference so long as it’s the Marine breed.
— General Chesty Puller

Wars are won on the backs of those who make the sacrifices no one desires to make. Imagine, if you will, being in the prime of your life as a warrior Marine prepared to meet the adversary you’ve trained so hard to fight. Less than a month into your battlefield experience that vision is almost literally snuffed out on the nefariously-crafted back of a pressure plate IED that nearly kills you. When the dust has settled, you’re lying in a hospital bed, one leg gone above the knee, with the possible complete loss of vision in both eyes. Everything you’ve set out to become is now a fractal portrait of what you’d imagined, and life will certainly never be the same. However, that wasn’t the end of Marine Corporal Josue Barron’s legacy, nor was it the beginning for that matter. Let’s head back to the beginning of the story to gain a little context. Josue’s backstory is the prime example of our military’s distinctive makeup.

Hailing from Cudahy, a small East L.A. suburb, Barron grew up in a one bedroom, 700 square foot home with six siblings. Without Josue’s father anywhere in the picture, his mother did whatever it took to give her children an opportunity to live comfortably. Almost inevitably though, Barron became a product of his environment, a melting pot of gang activity that saw Josue in firefights even before his time in the Marine Corps. At a fork in the proverbial road of life, Barron made a decision that would alter his path forever both for better and worse. His story is the perfect example of an imperfect world where tragedy can ultimately become triumph, but even that triumph isn’t always so clearcut. An important part of the narrative is a part of the place where Josue found healing, his wonderful wife Debbie and their three handsome sons. For more on that, let’s hear it from the man himself. Here’s Marine Corporal(R) and Catch A Lift Fund athlete, Josue Barron.

Why did you join the Marine Corps?

JB: I joined the Marine Corps because I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere in life. My environment was immersed in gangs and violence, and for awhile that’s all I knew growing up in Cudahy. I was getting into serious trouble that was either going to get me killed or set my life back. My selfishness was taking time away from my hard working mother who was raising 7 kids on her own. She provided everything for us and I wanted to show her that I appreciated her sacrifice and wanted to make her proud. I wanted to help her out. My mother’s love and advice made me want to be a better man. I didn’t have a dad at home to guide me in the right direction so I looked at the older homeboys in the neighborhood as role models. The respect and the brotherhood that they had, made me want to be a part of the neighborhood. Most of us didn’t have a dad at home so we connected and had so much in common. I eventually got to the point where my mother’s love became more important, and it was my turn to help her out and be the man of the house.

How did your mom raise you? What do you remember about growing up ?

JB: I remember my dad leaving when we were very young. He was an alcoholic and was never home. He worked in construction and was always traveling with his job to different states. I felt like he wasn’t committed to our family because he left us when we needed him the most. My mom had to take over the job of raising us and providing for all seven of us. My dad would come back every now and then, but by that time we couldn’t really connect and my mom had already put a restraining order out against him. He would show up, break windows, and do all the wrong things just to get her attention. I remember we had to meet him at the corner store just to see him sometimes. So, I felt like I never had a dad or any good memories with him.

Can you talk about joining the Marine Corps and how you made that decision ?

JB: I got to the point where I wasn’t safe or satisfied with my life at that moment. The life that I was living wasn’t a good one, especially coming from Cudahy. I wanted to be different and I knew I had an opportunity, not like some of my friends who either didn’t have documents or had bad criminal records. One of my friends had told me about the Army. He thought we should join to get out of our neighborhood and do something different. The things we’d been involved with in the culture of East LA didn’t seem different than being in the military. We called the recruiter for the Army and he came out to visit us at the house. The recruiter showed up and saw a bunch of bald guys wearing baggy pants and Nike Cortez shoes. He didn’t take us seriously. He gave us the practice ASVAB test, and we scored pretty low. He left saying he would give us a call back after we had studied for the test. He never did. One of my friends saw an ad on social media for the Marine Corps. We found the recruiting station and went to check it out. The recruiter told us he would help us with the test and took us seriously. That was the first step. I was supposed to go in on the buddy program with a friend to boot camp. But one day, me and the homeboys were walking to McDonald’s when a car pulled up and shot at us 6 or 7 times. My friend who had told me about the military was hit by the bullets in the fingers and his leg. He wasn’t able to join after that. His chances of joining were done but I still wanted to join. I was in the system with a date to leave. I stuck to the program.

What was it like when you first got into the Marine Corps and went through boot camp?

JB: When I joined the Marine Corps that was the first time I had left my family and friends. The three months of boot camp were the longest I had been away from them. It was tough. The second hardest thing would have to be getting yelled at (laughs). When I lived in LA no one ever yelled at you because you had a gun or you were part of a gang. The respect was something you wanted living in LA, and you built that up little by little. Nobody would mess with you once you’d built that up. When I joined the Marine Corps I realized that I was in their world and had to adjust to that. In my mind, when they yelled at me, I just knew that I had to suck it up. I was on my own at boot camp. I knew that in order for me to survive boot camp I would have to follow the rules. It was hard and challenging in a good way. I loved the challenge and the fact that the physical fitness was changing my body as well. The fact that I didn’t have a dad around growing up made me realize that I didn’t know how to do a lot of things. I didn’t know how to shave properly and those things that are part of becoming a man. Boot camp showed me those things. I felt like a man when I finished boot camp. I needed the discipline in my life. I graduated and felt so proud of making it through the training. This was just the beginning of what I would become.

Did you have a tough time kicking some of your old habits?

JB: I carried a lot of bad habits from growing up in LA. It was so easy to steal something because I never had it. My mindset wasn’t completely changed and I would still steal things even in boot camp. The razors, shaving cream, and all those things were there to take. When they would trash our barracks and throw everything out of our lockers, I was looking for anything I could get. They had Gillette razors which I wanted because I always had to use those cheap ones growing up in LA.b When I got a taste of using those 5 blade razors, I thought, “Hell yeah, I want those.” (laughs) They would tell us to go and grab all of our stuff after they shook us down. I would grab all those razors and anything else I could find. My mind was still full of the bad habits I’d had growing up. I always had been the leader before and that didn’t change in boot camp. I would pick out my group of friends and tell them what I was planning on doing.

How did you change those habits?

JB: I finally got out of the bad habits but it took me quite awhile. When I lived in LA I’d only attack the bad people and I never hurt the innocent. In the military I would pick out the selfish, bad and bullies of my unit and mess with them. In my mind I thought, “I’m going to steal something from you and then sell it back to you because you deserve to be treated that way.” I would do things like that. I knew they needed what I would steal from them. The bad habits went away when I was injured. The mindset had finally changed. Something about being wounded made me realize how selfish I’d been.

Can you talk about meeting Debbie?

JB: I met my wife Debbie on my birthday. There was a taco stand in LA that was open 24/7 and people would go there late night because it was the only place open that late. I saw this pretty girl sitting with her friends. I was shy at the time and very quiet. I made one of my Marine friends go say, “What’s up?” (laughs) I was already a Marine at the time, but looked more like a gangster so my chances of getting her number were probably going to be pretty low. When my friend went to go ask her for her number he came back and told me she said, “Stop being a little bitch.” (laughs) She wanted me to go tell her. I was challenged now and knew I had to go over there. I walked over and I remember being so nervous. I introduced myself but the conversation was awkward and I didn’t get her number (laughs). She told me the girl standing next to her was her girlfriend to throw me off. I walked back to my homies and got in my car to leave then I noticed her coming back to give me her number. When I told her I was in the Marine Corps she didn’t believe me because of how I dressed. She thought I was a gangster in the neighborhood (laughs). We exchanged numbers and started texting. We were married six months later.

Were you nervous about going over there?

JB: I deployed September 26, 2010. I was there three weeks before I got wounded. I was excited to deploy. My first deployment was a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) and I was so disappointed. I wanted to go to Iraq because I was infantry and that’s where you gain respect, much like you gained respect in East LA through the hard times. I wanted to go to combat. My seniors came back and talked about what they had been doing over there. My whole goal was to go to combat. I got injured very early in my deployment and we already had 9 KIA’s. We had so many amputees in those first two weeks. I knew something would happen. My friend Sebastian had lost his arm. I got hit a week after him. I was with my engineer when it happened.

Can you remember what that was like?

JB: We couldn’t patrol at night in that area because of the IED’s. The orders were not do anything at night but to go out early in the morning on missions. A sniper on post had shot a guy but we couldn’t go get the body until the morning. I had been asleep for 2 hours and heard my squad leader say, “Somebody gear up.” The Marine that geared up had just gotten off post so I said I would go with my team. Our mission was to go confirm and get pictures of the body and get a report to justify why someone was killed. We patrolled out to the body and it looked as if someone had drug the body because of the way the brush around him was. We took pictures of everything. When we were headed back my squad leader was getting annoyed with my engineer. My engineer was getting hits on his detector which were false, but that seemed to happen a lot out there. The squad leader took point on the way back because he was getting frustrated with us. We took the same route back that we had taken on the way out there. The next thing I know my engineer and I were blown up. My squad leader got a concussion from it as well. My engineer lost both his legs and I lost my left leg and left eye. I took shrapnel to my face which made everything go black. I couldn’t see but I remember I wanted to know if I had my leg. One of the guys told me I did but he was lying to me to keep me calm. They cleared the area and the helicopter arrived which took about 30 minutes. I woke up a few days later not knowing that I had made several stops before arriving at Bethesda. I woke up and Debbie was already there.

When she got there I was still in ICU and intubated. I couldn’t see anything. They had to put lube on my eyes because they wouldn’t shut. They stayed opened for a couple of days due to the blast hitting my face. I have no idea how I kept even one of my eyes. My vision with glasses is 20/20 and I have a scar on my good eye. I’m very lucky that I have vision at all. Debbie came to be there with me and they had warned her what I would look like. I had scars all over my face, I was intubated, my head was swollen, and I had a neck brace on. My leg was open due to them cleaning it out everyday. I looked horrible. She stayed with me the entire time in the hospital. The hardest part was not being able to see. I was trying to figure out when I would get my vision back. My mind was fine but my body was fucked up. My eyes were swollen and when the swelling subsided my left eye was shrinking. I was on around the clock medication for my eye. There would be times when I could see shadows and a bit of light. It was 5 months later that I got some vision back.

Was the thought of being blind scary?

JB: It was scary thinking that I might be blind. I wanted to be able to drive and be independent. It’s still possible to do it if I’d been blind, but it would have been very hard. The fact that I was missing a leg and then the possibility of being blind was tough. The first reaction I had when I woke up in Bethesda was just being upset I was still alive. I was complaining in the moment about living. I realized later that I could live and it would be alright.

What was rehab like for you?

JB: The rehab was not as hard because I had Debbie by my side. I had somebody to talk to and advocate for me. As a Marine you’re trained to just deal with it but she would argue for me to get it done. I was around so many amputees that came back from my unit. I felt that going through it with other people helped me recover. It was hard for my mom to do any of that because she was shy and didn’t argue with anyone. Debbie and I grew a lot through the hard times.

What did it mean to be part of 3/5 Darkhorse?

JB: I felt this huge sense of pride being part of ⅗ Darkhorse. When I first got injured I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be alive and that I had served with some great leaders. One of them was my platoon commander Lt. Kelly, who was killed weeks after I got hit. My leader had died but I had survived. I was so proud of all those guys. My biggest regret was the amount of time I was actually there because it was so short. I wanted to be there and fight until the end of our deployment, but my time was cut short due to the IED.

How was your mom after your injury?

JB: My mom was so sweet and strong with me throughout my recovery. She’s always been that way. My family had a hard time with Debbie being so strong sometimes. I look at our life 8 years later and know good decisions had been made. I didn’t want to make emotional decisions. Debbie helped me make the good, logical choices. My mom and Debbie had a few issues for a while but that passed after time. I had always promised my mom that I would take care of her and I still want to do that. My life changed because I saw how good choices would make things better. I wanted my brothers to see they could change and do better too. I tried to lead by example no matter what I was going through. I didn’t want to make excuses.

When you moved out to Temecula with Debbie, what was the goal?

JB: The goal for Debbie and I was to separate ourselves from the military at the moment. We had been through so much that I felt like we needed some time to build a family and separate ourselves from everything. We wanted to meet regular people and learn what life was as a civilian. We were also closer to family in LA so Temecula was a perfect middle ground for us to rebuild.

What attracted you to adaptive sports?

JB: The day I got injured in Afghanistan I felt I’d lost everything. The people that I had worked with for two years I never saw again. Everything just seemed to disappear. I was out here at the naval hospital in San Diego starting a new life. My unit was still in Afghanistan because I had been injured so early in the deployment. I felt like my job was just to recover. I found others at the hospital going through the same thing as me and I knew I needed to connect and surround myself with other wounded guys. When we connected at the gym playing wheelchair basketball, I knew I liked it because the memories I had with my old friends starting coming back to me. These guys were also Marines who lost everything like me so we had something in common. We were starting a new life and working toward that common goal. That was something special.

What surprised you about wheelchair basketball?

JB: I never even knew there were sports you could play in a wheelchair (laughs). That’s how much I didn’t know about the disabled community. When I got to experience it and meeting disabled civilians, it changed my perspective toward disabilities. There were a lot of universities taking athletes to play basketball that had programs just for adaptive sports. I met several athletes that had degrees and were in wheelchairs. They were doing well for themselves even with a disability. It opened my eyes and showed me I would be okay even with my disability.

Who was your biggest help during that time period besides your wife?

JB: Besides my wife, I would say my mom was my biggest help during that rehab period. One of the reasons I joined the military was to help my mom out. So, when I got injured I knew that they were still counting on me to be the leader that I was supposed to be. Even with my injuries and the struggles I was going through mentally, I found the strength to carry on and make my injury look easy to deal with. Seeing other amputees was also helpful during my recovery because they’d been dealing with their injury for longer than I had. They were somewhat used to it whereas I was just getting started on my own path. Seeing them walking and adjusting to a regular life was exciting because I knew that it would be me some day. I quickly realized that every amputee was different based on the level of amputation. My amputation was really high (almost to the hip) so I would always look for those short amputees for motivation and questions.

What do you think makes you that way?

JB: I think growing up in LA, I didn’t trust anyone. I never gave myself any room to trust anyone. I was always in survival mode and a step ahead. The biggest thing was also being stationed so close to home. If you’re stationed at a base in Kentucky you don’t have anywhere else to go so you have to hang out with your boys. That’s what makes you connect. You build memories. I never had that because I would always go back to LA. I was going back home to the same rough areas. When I did workups and training I was just there to train. The bonds I had with the guys weren’t as deep.

Do you regret that or is that a necessary mentality?

JB: I think it was necessary for who I was. I’m still picky about who I hang out with now. I want to be with people who help me grow and tell me the truth. There aren’t many people who are willing to tell you the truth when you’re making mistakes. I feel that people I want to be around are people I can learn from. The guys I served with suffer from PTSD so our lives are completely different. I don’t understand what they are going through so it makes it hard to spend time with them. I had one of the guys I know call me and he said he wanted to kill himself. I was at school and told him to meet me so we could talk about it. We met down on the street and sat in his car talking. He felt responsible for things that happened to me but I told him I was doing fine. I told him to look at my life. There are things you can and can’t control. There is only so much you can do for someone. I believe the people that say they are going to commit suicide and put it on Facebook don’t actually go through with it most of the time. I think that’s kind of a cry for help. The ones that say nothing are usually the ones who end up doing it. Stay aware of your buddies and where they are at. Check up on them.

How did you hook up with Catch a Lift Fund?

JB: I first met up with Catch A Lift Fund in 2013-2014. They got me the equipment I needed to workout at my house. The reason I contacted them was because I was nervous about working out with others around, so they helped me with gym equipment and I started working out in my garage. The equipment at home allowed me to reach some small goals and became more comfortable with my body. It gave me the confidence I wanted to go out into a local gym and feel comfortable with myself. Later on, they they gave me a gym membership. I was ready thanks to them. I met Lynn the founder of Catch A Lift earlier this year at an event that they hosted here in Temecula. She was so nice and just an incredible person. She quickly became a friend of mine and I told her if she ever needed anyone to go speak at her events I would volunteer. I felt like that was the only way I could repay this great organization.

How important was it to get that gym equipment?

JB: It was important because fitness was such an important thing in my life. You need to stay in shape as an amputee because it requires so much energy to deal with the lack of a limb. I have to use my upper body quite a bit and that requires a lot more energy. I was able to lift weights and get stronger in using my chair. My kids can now sit on my lap and I can push my chair with them. I hardly ever get tired. I feel that fitness should be part of every disabled veterans life. You can put on so much weight if you aren’t careful since you don’t burn as many calories being disabled. Catch A Lift and their way of fitness would be great for those suffering from PTSD too. They can let some of that anger out in the gym. It’s my go to place when I have a bad day. I just put on my headphones and kill my workout with anger then go home feeling much more relaxed.

What would you say to other disabled veterans about reaching out to organizations like Catch A Lift?

JB: I would tell them to not be afraid to reach out to a nonprofit for help if they need it. There are not many nonprofits that will come forward to give you gym equipment like Catch A Lift did for me. If someone is looking for an outlet to relieve stress or anger then reach out.

How important is Lynn’s attitude in creating the culture of Catch A Lift Fund?

JB: When you look at a nonprofit and all the things they do you don’t always get the connection with the main person involved. Lynn was at the events and it was helpful to actually see her there. She has a connection with all the veterans she helps. It’s also helpful to see what she has been through with her background and losing her brother in combat. It helps her relate to so many of the guys because most of us have lost someone close to us in a combat zone.

What do you see for yourself moving forward?

JB: When I started lifting weights that’s when the confidence began to return. Catch A Lift Fund helped tremendously with that. I started meeting people and talking to them. I was going to the gym for me but quickly realized that I was motivating others. I realized I could leave a huge impact. One of my goals was to lead by example and show other amputees that we can still do so much with what we have left. There are so many opportunities out there for every single person. No matter where you come from or how broke you are materially, spiritually, or emotionally, the opportunities are still out there. Moving forward, I would would love to work with low income kids from LA that don’t have that leader in their lives to guide them in the right direction. It’s so important to have an influence and keep them away from the gangs. I want to show them where I came from and what they can accomplish. Anything is possible.


How do you see the Marine Corps in its current state?

JB: The Marine Corps took me in the direction I was supposed to go. It gave me the discipline I needed and opened my eyes to the world. It changed my life forever. The Marine Corps made a huge impact in my life and I would do it all over again. Now I feel like the Marines are changing and there are so many things that need to change. I wish the government would pay the service members a lot more and take better care of them. If anyone wants to join I would tell them to think about it twice. The military isn’t for everyone. If you’re thinking about making money or an easy way out then the military isn’t for you. You have to be willing to deal with the consequences of war. If you’re confused about the direction of your life, then the military could be a good place for you. It gives you direction and that sense of pride in serving your country.

Do you like the direction the Marine Corps is moving?

JB: There’s so much more technology nowadays. Eventually, things will change to where we have cyborgs fighting (laughs) like some Terminator shit. It was definitely harder way back in the day in the military. This generation is getting soft and the military seems to be too. When my kids go into the military it will be a whole different world. The reality is that it’s changing. But, I believe despite that softening, it still gives people a lot of purpose and we need people to be ready to protect this county at all times.

What do you think makes the Marine Corps unique to the other branches ?

JB: I see the Marine Corps as unique. I feel that it all comes down to the discipline. They have a discipline that can make you stand out. The Marine Corps is a smaller group in the military. When you join, you will either go to MCRD San Diego or Paris Island and from there you will go to one of a few bases. The training is in fewer areas. If you’re a Marine you’re more disciplined in a lot of ways. They are a different type of breed, and any stranger can pick out a Marine right away just by looking at them. I feel like a Marine has a higher rate of motivation once they get out. They will talk about it for years to come.

What are your goals moving forward ?

JB: I want to inspire others. I’ve always felt that God gave me a second chance for a reason and I can feel it. I want to show others how strong the mind really is. Controlling our thoughts and putting our brain to use can really help us so much. I realized that we have to fall hard in life to really appreciate it sometimes. I want to be a great dad too. I love being a father and showing my kids that anything is possible.

Had you acted before your role in Peppermint? What was it like being on that set and acting in that big of a role?

JB: I’d never acted before my role in Peppermint but what gave me the confidence to do it was a job I got after I was injured. The job was with Strategic Operations out of San Diego where I had to pretend I was a casualty. This was training for law enforcement and active duty military. The training was out of my comfort zone but I had to become an actor so the students would take it serious. Hopefully this movie role can open the doors to an acting career.

How do make marriage work with being wounded and your goals moving forward?

JB: You need to get to the point where you can accept your life the way it is and be sure about yourself. Once that’s accepted then It’s time to take care of the people that were there for you when you were at your lowest. I thought about all the attention and cool things I was getting being a wounded service member, and realized that my wife was being neglected for so long. It made me think, “What about Debbie?” She took care of me at my lowest and now that I reached a pinnacle, I knew I couldn’t forget about her. Definitely sacrificing some time to let my wife focus on herself really helped us out. I realized that she needed her space to find her personal goals and her happiness. I couldn’t be selfish and I’m glad I realized it quickly. I know a lot of my friends that are divorced now because they didn’t put their family first.

How do you want your sons to view you and what are your goals for them?

JB: I want my sons to be motivated by what I’ve done. I want to show them with actions and see how hard I’ve worked. I want them to see it and feel it. I think by accomplishing some of the things I have, they can see what I’m all about. They need to look at my life and know they can do it. If my boys can see that I can raise them and give them a good life even without a leg and an eye,, then that can be an incredibly motivating thing for them. They can do just as much, if not more. I want to lead by example. I’ve learned that from the military and particularly the Marine Corps. My leaders didn’t really talk that much but they worked very hard. Their hard work made me want to work just as hard because they didn’t throw it in my face. Anyone’s leadership that can get dirty with their team and lead by example is a true warrior. I want to be that person. That’s how I feel with my kids. I want to show them I’m willing to do the work and sacrifice everything for them, and be something for them I never had as a kid.

What are the biggest issues you currently see in this country currently?

JB: I always go back to where I grew up. I’m Latino. I believe that in order for us to be successful we must create leaders who can lead by example. We need to get off our ass and make things happens, and get out of our comfort zone. I grew up in an immigrant community and never realized how people talk down on them without even knowing anything about them. I have a problem with that. Just because people come from other countries in search of the American dream doesn’t automatically make them criminals. Growing up I saw hard working Hispanics doing whatever it took just to take care of their families and give them better opportunity while paying taxes. They were happy and raised kids like myself so that we could make a difference. My mom came as an illegal but she fought to get here and provide for us. She broke the law but she felt like it was her only option. She wasn’t a criminal by any means. She just wanted a better life for us and she found a place where she could have that.

I want her sacrifice to not be taken for granted. I want to be somebody that can give back to my community one day. I can’t really say what I want other people to do but I can suggest that they change their mentality and open their eyes to the reality of this world. We have to see the bigger picture. We have to stop fighting with each other because there are already others out there who are against us. We have to motivate each other because if we don’t then we are just bringing on problems that we shouldn’t have at all. My generation has an opportunity to do great things and have even more than what our parents had. They need to go to school and get an education to make a difference for their families. Every generation has to be better than the last. We should never forget where we came from. There are still people that are out there lost and confused not knowing what direction to go. My point of view in politics is that people need to stop judging others and realize that we are all human. I understand that we have laws in this country and if people break the law there has to be consequences. The problem that I have is blaming all immigrants or Hispanics for one stupid immigrant or Hispanic that commited a crime. We aren’t all bad people because of a few bad people.

How have you taught your boys to view the disabled?

JB: I have always wondered how my kids will feel when I take them to school. How will they feel? How will I make them look? It all comes back to confidence. Confidence is everything. If you’re a confident person then other people won’t even notice your disability. That is what I’ve noticed along the way. You become a disabled person when you tell yourself that you’re disabled. If you feed yourself that and constantly say that, then you become that. If you’re not thinking about it and dwelling on it, then your vision of yourself isn’t stuck in that identity. I’m still growing as a person with my disability. I know by the time my kids go to school I don’t want to care about anything people say. I want to walk in like a normal person and not even think about them staring at me. My kids need to see that even though I have a disability it doesn’t phase me. If they come home and they’ve had someone make fun of them they need to be able to laugh about it. It is what it is. Never get offended or take it in and allow yourself to feel down.

If the person is willing to listen then they can explain to them what happened to me or how the disabled community works. There are those that just want to bully and you can’t change that but you can laugh about it and move on. I have three boys and I always tell them if I can’t do it they can. I joke about it and tell myself that I’ll soon have three workers working for me (laughs). One can mow the grass and one can pick up dog shit (laughs). When it comes down to the day we will deal with it and adjust. I’m a Marine so I can adjust, figure it out and solve the problem. I want to show them that I’m different and that’s okay. I would be boring if I was like everybody else (laughs).

How do you treat others now that you’ve dealt with issues like that?

JB: I think a lot of the issues the guys have in our veteran community aren’t as big as they think they are. If they would just wait a few days, then those problems wouldn’t be as large as they made them internally. We tend to act in the moment and make the issue bigger than it is. The feeling just drags you down sometimes. There are quite a few amputees out there like me and I’ve always felt that I could talk to them. I felt that my mind was capable of dealing with a lot because of what I’d been through. There are some disabilities that are harder to relate to when it comes to giving advice on how it will work out. I had a friend that came to our help group and he was sad. He got depressed and it was hard for me to help him feel better about himself. There are some things that people have to go through and they have to learn on their own. The pain is ironically how you learn sometimes. I never want to tell people to look at me because I’m doing great. They could be doing the same things too but it’s not my place to tell them that. If they want to take the advice and apply it then great. If not, there’s not much I can do for them other than lead the best life possible and show them the results of that.

I’ll give you a personal example. I have a friend on my basketball team that is missing an eye like me. I’ve told him to get glasses because I wear special glasses when I play basketball. If someone pokes me in the eye then I’m done. He has one eye too. I’ve told him to wear glasses and he always says that he doesn’t want to wear them. I’ve told him if he doesn’t want to wear them then that’s fine but basketball can be a contact sport. If somebody hits him in the eye then he’s done. I can only tell him to change that but I can’t actually make him do anything.

What was it like to get into the nonprofit world?

JB: The best way for us as wounded service members that receive benefits from these nonprofits to help out, is to give back. Giving back doesn’t have to be with money but by speaking at events and talking about how that non profit helped you out and the benefit in that. There are alway nonprofits that start for the wrong reasons and most of the the time they don’t last long. Those are the nonprofits that I try to stay away from. They feed off guys like myself to be the face of their nonprofits just to make money. It helps to be selective and choose to support the nonprofits that are successful in their mission. When you meet the people involved with those entities you can tell who is real and really wants to help. There was a time when I said “yes” to too many things because I felt guilty if I said “no.” It was becoming a problem because I didn’t have time for my marriage and my family. I was always traveling to help out the nonprofits. I love giving back but I don’t want to be thought of as a wounded warrior forever and be known for just losing my leg. I want to be successful with things I can create on my own, as I’m thankful for all the help I’ve received over the years.

What have you learned through your kids?

JB: Through my kids I’ve realized that building a successful family takes sacrifice and patience. The love and support I didn’t have from my father came to me the day I had my kids. Every time I do something special for them it closes a wound that was created by not having that in my life as a kid. It helps me appreciate the role as a father. It’s something special and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I’ve realized that God gave me 3 boys and a purpose in life.

Had you acted before your role in Peppermint? What was it like being on that set and acting in that big of a role?

JB: I’d never acted before my role in Peppermint but what gave me the confidence to do it was a job I got after I was injured. The job was with Strategic Operations out of San Diego where I had to pretend I was a casualty. This was training for law enforcement and active duty military. The training was out of my comfort zone but I had to become an actor so the students would take it serious. Hopefully this movie role can open the doors to an acting career.

Although Josue’s life has most certainly reached a more comfortable place since the injury, there will always be those ever-present mental and physical scars. Barron’s self-admissions are a refreshing look into the reality of cyclical environments, and the fact that life decisions don’t always lead to a completely clean break from old habits. Those scars and the surrounding tissue always more of a challenge to heal. But, with an environment of encouragement, the love of family, and a consistent approach; favorable outcomes are far more likely. Within the vacuum of life we’re all surrounded by helpful and harmful influences from birth, but there’s absolutely no doubt those vacuums aren’t equal spaces. That’s what makes Josue’s life transformation even that much more incredible. His progressional journey from growing up as a youth in Cudahy to where he is now as a father, husband, and veteran ambassador is truly a beautiful tale of transformation. We at The Veterans Project would like to thank Josue Barron and his incredible family for sharing their lives with us. To follow Josue and his journey check him out on Instagram: @barron_35 .

We’d also like to take the time to thank our amazing sponsor for this project, “Catch A Lift Fund.” Catch A Lift is all about helping wounded war-fighters get back into the gym and meet their fitness goals. Although the partnership is young, we’ve already seen first-hand the incredible job CAL is doing to help the veteran community get up and active. The transformation from wounded veteran to “Catch A Lift Athlete” is a truly inspiring journey that CAL actively participates in. To find out more about Catch A Lift Fund and their various fitness programs please visit their website, www.catchaliftfund.org, follow their Instagram: @catchalift_fund, and like their Facebook page: @catchaliftfund. We’d be remiss if we failed to mention Self-Made Training Facility in Murrieta, California. This is the second time we’ve had dealings with Miguel Aguilar (Founder/Owner) and the Self-Made family. They’ve been hugely supportive of veterans and our endeavors in capturing the stories of vets at their gym. Check them out at www.selfmadetrainingfacility.com, on Instagram: @selfmadetrainingfacility, and on Facebook: @SelfMadeTrainingFacility.


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