A little more than a year ago, Legna Barreto said she received the worst news a military spouse can ever receive.
Her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz, was killed Sept. 5, 2019, by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“Not only was I robbed of the person who was the love of my life, I was worried because I was unsure if I was going to be able to provide for (our sons),” she told a crowd on Veterans Day.
Barreto said her husband was “incredible, smart, funny and always ready to help.”
“He was a great husband,” she said of her husband, who was known as Barreto. “He enjoyed hearing that, and one of his biggest dreams was to one day be able to provide a house for our family. And God’s timing is perfect, and today I see his dream come true.”
Barreto was presented with the keys to a new home in the Wendell Falls community in Wake County from nonprofit organization Operation: Coming Home.
Operation: Coming Home is a joint volunteer project by the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County and the United States Veterans Corps.
Representatives of the Home Builders Association, developer Newland Communities, builder Garman Homes, the U.S. Veterans Corps and elected officials all said the home celebrates Barreto’s legacy.
Alaina Money-Garman, founder of Fresh Paint and Garman Homes, said when she met Barreto in March she asked if the Gold Star widow would be willing to share about her husband.
Barreto told Money-Garman her husband was from Puerto Rico, liked cars and liked running to stay in shape, often making her run with him.
“I tried to take in every detail., make each and every connection I could so I could conjure him up in my head — this hero I would never get the chance to meet and make him real to me, so we at Garman Homes could invite and reflect his spirit in this home we built to honor his sacrifice,” Money-Garman said.
During the past year, she said there have been heroes throughout the coronavirus pandemic along with heroes and trade partners who stepped up to continue the project for Barreto’s family. “Heroes like Elis remind us of our fullest potential of the power within each of us to serve more than ourselves, to resist being divided and to seek what unites us instead,” she said.
Money-Garman said she’s learned Barreto was a hero in life not only for his service and sacrifice but also for the way he loved his family.
“He somehow managed to fit that lifetime’s worth of love into too few years here on Earth, a love that surrounds you, a love that we can feel when we’re with you, a love that will protect you, and ultimately a love that lives here in this home on this ground and in the hearts of everyone who has the privilege to hear his story,” she said.
Barreto was born in Manati, Puerto Rico, and joined the Army in 2010.
After completing basic training and advanced individual training, he was assigned to the 359th Transportation Battalion.
In 2013, he was assigned to the 51st Composite Truck Company at Baumholder, Germany as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and deployed for nine months to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2016, Barreto was assigned to the 601st Aviation Support Battalion at Fort Riley, Kansas.
After graduating from airborne school in 2017, he was assigned to 82nd Airborne Division in 2018 and was a maintenance control sergeant assigned to Company H, 82nd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at the time of his death.
Barreto was a platoon sergeant for Company 1st Sgt. Kristopher Renno.
“He always placed his soldiers first and ensured they were taken care of at all times,” Renno said last week. “But what makes a leader truly successful is the love and support they have back at the place they call home.”
Renno said Barreto’s wife and children were where his heart and home were.
“That’s the beauty and the legacy of our beloved paratrooper’s life,” he said. “His legacy lives on through the heartbeats of his home. His family’s new home is not just a building (where) they lay their heads down each night, but it is a place where his spirit and legacy will live on forever.”
(c) 2020 The Fayetteville Observer
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