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Community unites after fire destroys Marine’s home

By Airman 1st Class Kevin West | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | Dec. 23, 2016

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —

When a correctional specialist assigned to the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston, left his house the morning of Nov. 23, 2016, he didn’t realize it would be the last time he and his 3-year old son would see it intact. When he received a phone call saying his house had burned down, he was in disbelief having left it less than an hour prior.

A portable speaker left on a couch malfunctioned causing U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Ruben Barnett and his son to lose their home and everything inside.

“I got there and everything was destroyed,” said Barnett. “I don’t know, there was a lot of stuff going through my mind. I didn’t really know how to feel.”

When the housing office heard what transpired, they were quick to assist the family in need.

“We had a home available for him to move into,” said Sandra Berkos, Joint Base Charleston Family Housing community director. “We gave him the keys within the hour after he arrived. He had a new home but he didn’t have furniture. He lost everything. We gave him the keys to our model home which has a bed and furnished rooms. Then we went to the Base Exchange to buy him and his son some essential items.”

Berkos also recommended Barnett and his son to Operation Homefront as a family in need. BAE Systems and Operation Homefront host an annual campaign called the Joy of Giving where they sponsor a family in need during the holiday season. This year provided housewares and gifts for Barnett and his son.

“We have a great partnership with BAE Systems,” said Alana Stroker, South Carolina community liaison for Operation Homefront. “They like to sponsor military families, especially around the holidays, in conjunction with their other program. We have also had a good relationship with the housing office here at Joint Base Charleston. I asked housing if they had a family in need of some support for the holidays and they recommended Mr. Barnett, which is how we got here.”

Operation Homefront’s mission is to work with the community, businesses and people to build strong, stable and secure military families.

"Thank you to Operation Homefront and BAE Systems, who sponsored the event. Also, to Hunt Communities who helped coordinate this for a military family in need,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Lyman, Joint Base Charleston commander.  “This was a nice and gracious touch from our community.”

The kindness and caring shown by BAE Systems, Operation Homefront and his JB Charleston teammates gave Barnett and his son a chance for a happy holiday season after an unfortunate disaster. 

“My command and the housing office helped a lot,” said Barnett. “We got a lot of stuff from everybody, everywhere. I’m grateful I’m in a place where that can happen. Being in the military, people say these are all ‘your brothers and sisters.’ Sometimes you don’t realize it’s a close knit group. Then something happens and you see people really do care. People I didn’t even know were calling, texting offering assistance. It is great.”

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