The world of a caregiver is so remarkably different than that of a veteran returning home. It’s almost unfair to juxtapose the two, as this most definitely dilutes the truths and realities faced by both communities. Unfortunately, it seems as though the caregiver’s story is often told as a subset of his or her veteran family member in a way that enfolds it almost as an afterthought. Every individual’s experience, within both populations, is completely unique and that was Debbie Barron’s reality when she received the call no wife ever wants to respond to. At 19 years old, Debbie had just met and wed the love of her life, a 20 year old young Marine named Josue. Little did Josue know, the night he first laid awe-struck eyes on Debbie at that Bell Gardens (LA) Mexican Restaurant, he was meeting the mother of his future children and his saving grace throughout a time of tumultuous physical and mental terror. Later, when Debbie did receive that notification from officials with the Marines, she braced herself for a destiny only describable as uncertain. But, her love was not something that could be constrained to the bounds of some definable faction of rules or ideas of what compassion “should” look like. To describe her as resilient would be a ghastly underestimation of Debbie’s whole character and selflessness.
The self-ascribed “Mamà Latina’s” voyage has been a pilgrimage of empathy and understanding fraught with lessons that no academic institution could ever hope to teach. Lessons learned on those tempestuous waters of a life of young love and indescribable angst, were bolstered by magnificent moments of rebirth and regeneration. Although it’s almost indisputable that Debbie could’ve slept better without many of those trials, ask the mother of three now and she’d undoubtedly say she wouldn’t trade her present place for any amount of material wealth. Debbie and Josue have cultivated an environment that places family above all else, even within a storm of irresolution that came as a result of Josue’s injuries. Their dedication is admirable in a culture encapsulated in stories of fairy tale narratives rife with little real-world backing. They stand as a genuine example of young love at its finest, a magnificent display of selflessness, sacrifice, and tender devotion. But, let’s hear the story from the woman who knows it better than anyone. We’ll let Debbie tell you the rest.
Where did you grow up?
DB: I grew up in Southern California in Rialto and West LA. I went back and forth from my mom’s house to my dad’s house. I remember growing up with my sisters and splitting my time between my mom and sister’s, and my dad who lived in Los Angeles.
What do you think was most important in your childhood that prepared you the most for life as a caregiver?
DB: I believe growing up in a broken home actually molded my attitude and perspective towards caring for others. I’m not resistant to, or affected by change, but I am also self-willed and understanding.
How did you meet Josue?
DB: I met Josue at a Mexican restaurant in Bell Gardens. He had one of his friends approach me and I denied him instantly. I gave him my number after I caught a glimpse of his embarrassed smile though (laughs). It was also his 20th birthday. I was attracted to his shy, mysterious, and bad boy demeanor.
Can you talk about when he first left for deployment?
DB: Josue and I were so young, when he left for his first combat deployment. His first actual deployment was a MEU. I don’t think either of us knew what to expect nor understood the seriousness of it. We just knew we were going to be apart for a long time. One week into the deployment I was already a complete mess and I missed him so much. I would spend most of my days at his mom’s house where I felt his presence the most. By the third week I thought, “How the hell am I supposed to survive six more months?”
What do you remember about him being injured and receiving that call?
DB: I was getting ready to head out for the day when I received a call from a government caller ID and I thought it was Josue. I was so excited and surprised to hear from him again so soon as I’d just spoken to him the day before. As soon as I heard the strange voice on the other line say, “Is this Mrs. Barron?” my heart sank to the pit of my stomach and I instantly felt out of body. The man on the phone said he was waiting for me at my place of residence, but they were actually at the wrong address. After sorting it out and meeting two men in uniform my fears were escalated, and I felt that the news I was going to hear was the confirmation of his death. My husband had died at war. I kept thinking about that and I think even saying it out loud. They told me that in actuality he stepped on an IED and was severely injured. I didn’t understand though. He was alive? They told me he was hurt, but they weren’t sure if he would survive his injuries. I met him at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland 72 hours after receiving the news, never speaking to him before that. I remember waiting and not knowing what to expect.
Who helped you the most through that time when you first found out?
DB: My good friend, and wife of a Marine who was also injured just a week before Josue helped me so much. During that time we shared information and would confide in each other for the next couple years to come. She was the only person who really truly understood my thoughts and concerns without me ever having to justify myself.
How did you best prepare yourself to see him after he was first injured?
DB: I didn’t know what to expect when I first saw him. I guess in my naive mind I thought I would see him in a hospital bed with a few bumps and bruises. I thought to myself we would be on our way home after a few days. I remember being stopped in the doorway by his ICU doctor. He told me that if I felt nauseous or dizzy that I shouldn’t feel bad and should step outside for a breather.
What have you seen from Josue since the injury and how have you seen him grow?
DB: I’ve seen Josue’s determination and resiliency after questioning life and God. Now he appreciates life in a different way. He wants to serve and help others any chance he gets.
What do you love the most about Josue as a husband?
DB: Josue has always been aware of the emotional and physical burden his injury caused or could have caused me. He’s never left me alone or made me feel isolated in dealing with everything. He’s always been concerned with my self-care and mental health. At the hospital he would say things like, “Please go eat, please go shower, please take a nap, or go explore the city and get out of this hospital. I’ll be okay and I’ll be here when you get back.” He is a loving, loyal and caring husband.
What are the most important traits that a caregiver can have?
DB: It’s important to be direct and outspoken in order to advocate for the person you are caring for. It’s also vital that you’re empathetic of your loved one in order to help understand the things you might not normally comprehend. And, you definitely need to be patient. Everything takes time, and especially with the VA (laughs).
What would you tell civilians that might help them better understand the role of a caregiver?
DB: I’d say, from my experience, that friends of caregivers should check in on that caregiver and ask how they are doing. Being acknowledged and appreciated goes a long way. When Josue was first injured and going through rehab, I was expected to be up early to take him to formation and after that to every appointment. I would get asked about his medical conditions, as well as his routine and progress. I would remember the names of dozens of medications and the times that they had to be given. He would tell me his fears and about his pain and I would talk him through it every day for weeks, even months sometimes. It was exhausting mentally, physically and emotionally. A lot of times, I needed someone to fill in for me, and force me to take a break or ask me how I was doing.
What are your own personal goals currently?
DB: Right now, my main focus is my children. My never ending goal is to be the best mom I can be and raise good humans. Secondarily, my goal is to grow my online business and blog.
What have you learned the most in motherhood?
DB: I’ve learned that everyday is an adventure when you’re a mom. It’s a big, beautiful adventure (laughs). It’s taught me to be aware of my thoughts, my actions and that every choice has repercussions in this world. I have learned to think outside of myself and to spread love as much as possible. Motherhood has taught me profound patience and compassion.
What’s the most difficult part about being a mom?
DB: The most difficult part of being a mom is the feeling at the end of the day where you wonder if you did the best you could do. That leads into wondering how you could have handled a situation differently or better. There’s always the thought that maybe something you did or said could affect your child emotionally or mold his or her behavior or characteristics, in a negative manner. I would never want them to be mean, angry or hurtful human beings.
What’s the most rewarding part?
DB: It’s very rewarding when my child does or says something to prove that my worn out feelings at the end of the day, are nonsense. For instance, when they say, “Please, thank you, you’re welcome, and excuse me,” on a daily basis. When my sons pick flowers for me, or when they tell a complete stranger that they are beautiful. Nothing is more wonderful than raising kind human beings.
How does Josue being injured change your role as a mom?
DB: With our first born, we didn’t know what to expect as new parents with a newborn. I prepared myself mentally to have to do a lot more because we thought maybe Josue wouldn’t be able to do some things with his disability. My role as a mom is just like any other though. Josue has adapted as a father with a physical disability and we share our parenting roles and responsibilities 100%.
How much has the veteran/caregiver community helped your family?
DB: Before his injury we were not aware of the veteran community and the various hubs that existed around that community. It wasn’t until he got injured that other family members of wounded veterans and non-profits starting reaching out to us. We had no idea any of it existed or that so many people cared. There were so many people that were grateful for his service and sacrifice as well as many non-profits that wanted to help fill in the gaps. The veteran community and camaraderie is what has helped us heal and adapt. We’re forever grateful for their support and generosity. Many of these groups have become like family to us.
What would you tell women or men that were just becoming caregivers for a wounded serviceman/servicewoman?
DB: I feel like it’s become a weird sort of trend within the younger generation of veterans, and becoming a caregiver is some strange sort of goal. It’s not. It’s not a title you give yourself or aspire to be. It’s more than just answering a questionnaire for the title and VA benefits. It’s something that you do out of extremely unfortunate circumstances without even knowing that you’re doing it, or without anyone having to tell you to do it. I would tell new caregivers to be strong-willed with a goal or plan that you and your service member agree upon. It’s very important to work on those goals together. It’s too easy to get lost in a self-pity party.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
DB: In the future, I look forward to watching my kids grow and traveling with them and my husband.
You have a blog that you’re pretty passionate about. What got you into blogging and what’s the blog about?
DB: I’ve been off and on for a few years, and I currently just published the blog on the website. But, my main purpose has been to share my experiences as a wife and mom. I love curating photos and helping others in this space.
Can you talk about your culture and what you love the most about your culture? Are there things you can see improving about your culture?
DB: My parents are Mexican and Salvadorian immigrants. The two cultures are very distinct from each other, but also very similar. I love everything about the two including the food, the music, the history, and my people. Everything influences something else so it’s hard to pick one, single thing. I love being multicultural.
Tell me about your business and your blog. Why is this work important to you?
DB: I took a few courses in multi-media a few years ago and I’ve always been a little tech savvy, so to challenge and express myself I would design blogs. I see it as a kind of blank piece of paper where I can create from my own ideas. I’m not the best at creative writing though, so i struggle to publish my posts because I second guess a lot of it. But, I enjoy curating the photos and pages. I’m currently working on my blog DebbieBarronDaily.com, where my goal is to share my experiences as a wife and as a “cool mom.” I want to share the trendiest and most instagram-able family friendly places in SoCal (say that fast 5 times haha) and deliver reviews on baby products. However, I’ve also created three online businesses over the last 5-ish years. The first one was a fashion boutique. It’s no longer open, but I learned a lot about how to start and run an online business. I’m currently running a baby boutique and a party rental business. They’re both doing really well.
How do you want people to remember Debbie Barron?
DB: I want people to remember me most of all as a devoted wife and mom.
Friendship, even the act of maintaining that tender relational core, can be a delicate balance. Take that up 100 notches into a marriage and a marriage with some of the most difficult circumstances a young couple could imagine. This is the world that Debbie has occupied for close to a decade, and she thrives in that environment. As you can probably tell by her tone throughout the blog, she truly believes that she was born for such tremendous responsibility. Who could possibly plan for a young marriage planted in tumultuous soil? Yet, Mrs. Barron not only took on her role graciously as it came, but implanted herself as Josue’s ferocious advocate. That same incessant zeal has led to courageous, faithful service as Josue’s companion and the mother of three handsome boys. That passion has also followed her in an increasingly successful journey as a blossoming small business owner and creative blog author. While it’s increasingly important to remember and memorialize the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, it’s also vital that we remember those families who served in their own capacity. Stories like Debbie’s are stark reminders of the trials faced by families young and old, in the caregiver space. It’s not just a reminder of tragic sacrifice, but a display of perpetual vigilance and overcoming even the harshest of circumstances. Mrs. Barron’s tale is a stunning testament to the strength of unconditional love and faithful service.
We’d like to thank Debbie for sharing her powerful story, and even more so for her fortitude in service to family. If you’d like to continue to follow Debbie and her family’s journey (you really should), check out her Instagram: @debbiebarrondaily and her website: debbiebarrondaily.com.