On the homefront
By Amanda Roberson
By day, Sgt. Maj. Ramon Barajas is a master of munitions charged with keeping inventory on all weapons at the Luke Air Force Base in Glendale. By night, he applies his keen organizational skills to a different task – juggling carpool, dinner and movie nights to care for his young daughters on his own during his wife’s six-month deployment to Qatar.
Elena Delfina Barajas also serves in the Air Force as a security forces officer, and she’s on her second tour abroad in three years. The first was to Kyrgyzstan.
For this military family, periods of separation have become a fact of life, explained a calm and collected Barajas from his office at Luke.
“Being in the military means wherever the mission takes us, that’s where we’ll go. Her career field is more in demand over there, and it was her time to go,” he said.
Despite their ages, his daughters Sofia, 8, and Sonia, 7, understand why their mother has to be away from home.
“We told them that mommy has to go now because someone else’s mommies and daddies are there and they need to come home. That way when it’s mommy’s turn, she can come home too,” he said.
In the meantime, Barajas and his daughters talk and e-mail with Elena every day as they await her scheduled return March 13.
They pass the time with movie nights, a weekend ritual, along with visits to the zoo, park and science center.
Born in the border town of Calexico, California, 42-year-old Barajas is the son of Mexican migrant workers.
He joined the Air Force after graduating from high school because he wanted to get a college education and realized his parents wouldn’t be able to provide one for him as well as his two brothers and sister.
Now he has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a Master of Public Administration under his belt, and he’s working on a Master of Business Administration. His Air Force career is distinguished by honors including the national-level Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Award.
He and Elena, also a Mexican-American, met in 1997 in Germany while they were both stationed there and were married the same year.
In the future, Barajas hopes to reach Chief Master Sgt. and work up to a CEO position in the private sector.
But first he’s got dinner to make and two daughters to pick up.
The University of Arizona in 2000 began a graduate studies program for people who had served in the Peace Corps and were looking to return to continue their formal education. As part of the program, they are required to volunteer in their communities in Southern Arizona.
This year, several of the students in the program are Latinos. They include Ari Posner, a Ph.D. student in Hydrology and Water Resources who served in Guatemala with the Peace Corps. Posner now volunteers in Arizona, with Watershed Management Group, to help teach neighborhoods how to Harvest and conserve water.
Holly Lawson is a Ph.D. student in Special Education working with low vision. Her Peace Corps work took her to Morocco, where she worked in a school for the blind. Her Ph.D. dissertation work is developing curriculum and best practices for low vision students in Fiji. She has taught classes for public school teachers in Tucson and Phoenix on working with low vision students and managed a camp for kids at the AZ School for Deaf and Blind.
And Eva Cosyleon, getting her master’s degree in Planning, served with the Peace Corps in Ghana, doing eco-tourism development with the government. She is now working with Santa Cruz County Cooperative Extension, conducting a community assessment with people from the community.