After 28 years of service in the United States Air Force, coaching youth in countries around the world, Senior Master Sergeant Michael Barnett, born and raised in West Philadelphia, retired last year from the military with a long history of accomplishments.
With a wife, whom he adores and four children, whom he describes as his greatest accomplishments, Barnett has much to be proud of but is not one to tell his own story.
It is mother, Evangeline, who, against her son’s wishes, contacted The Tribune to tell the public about a son who, at 48, has distinguished himself academically, socially and professionally.
“I love helping people when I can,” Barnett said. “I just love life.”
Barnett attended John Bartram High School in Southwest Philadelphia, but his mother, who worked hard to raise her three children, wanted him to experience more than just one culture, she wanted him to see more, to be prepared for a world larger than what was presented outside their 58th Street and Carpenter Street home.
Asked if it was difficult to send her son to live with her sister in Lansdale to attend North Penn High School where he graduated from in 1982, Barnett said it wasn’t difficult at all.
“At the time there were a lot of gangs here in the area of Philadelphia where I was living,” she said. “I was determined to see that my children didn’t get caught up in that.”
And they didn’t.
“If they went to the store and weren’t back in five minutes, I went looking for them. That’s the kind of parent I was. I felt him living in that environment,” said Barnett’s mother who believes it was that exposure to different ethnic groups that made it easier for her son to transition into military life.
According to Barnett, Michael made the decision to join the Air Force and from there went on to accomplish a string of successes.
In October 1984, he was promoted to Airman; in 1985, Airman First Class in 1987; Senior Airman in 1991; Staff Sergeant; then Technical Sergeant in 1997; and finally Senior Master Sergeant in October 2007.
Along the way he earned a string of meritorious service medals including Air Force commendation medals, an Air Force good conduct medal, a Global War on Terrorism service medal and a Humanitarian Service medal.
Barnett is looking to re-enter the work force and has his eyes set on coaching where he can help younger generations reach their potential, learn to work as a team and become productive members of society.
Some would say that he leads by example.
“Its one thing to serve your country but it’s [another thing] to travel the world, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people. One thing about the military is that it is a melting pot,” Barnett said. “People from all different ethnicities and backgrounds all come together for one common good. You quickly learn [in the military] that no matter your background, you have to learn to get along out here.”
His mother is very proud of him.
“I am so proud that he held on to the religious background in which he has been taught and that he and his wife stayed together and how he raised their four children,” said Ms. Barnett.