Editor’s note: When e-mailed U.S. Navy Lieutenant Roger Barajas ’98 about speaking with us by phone for this profile, he replied it’d be difficult since he’s serving in Afghanistan! We’re grateful he took time out from his duty station to respond via email.
By Donna Parker
“I’m currently assigned to the NATO International Security Assistance Force Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. We concentrate on the 24 Provincial Reconstruction Teams located throughout the country as our front line units are attempting to get this country and its new government up and running.”
“Afghanistan is easily 200 years behind the rest of the world in basic human living conditions. Electricity, running water, sewage, sanitation, and health care quite literally don’t exist here.”
“Despite that, the Afghans are a truly remarkable people with entire generations who’ve known nothing but war and hardship.”
It’s easy to see that Roger, personally familiar with both war and hardship, uses humor to get through the rough patches. When asked what he does for fun…
“I’m reading books I was supposed to have read for class at Trinity! I’m also playing World Series of Poker on my PSP and throwing snowballs at British soldiers!”
How did Trinity prepare this Navy officer for the real world?
“Ha! Whose real world? I spent three years of my life on big gray ships – another few playing with mine-hunting dolphins on the beach, and six months running from rockets and mortars in Iraq. The short answer is – Trinity gave me the intellectual and social tools I would need to succeed at just about anything, but it wasn’t like there was a pamphlet in Trinity’s Career Services Office that covered, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Going to War and Were Afraid to Ask.”
Roger clearly shows talent as a humorist, and in fact, credits Judith Fisher, department of English, whose many writing classes were instrumental and for whom he served as a workshop assistant.
“She was great, but I can honestly say that every single professor I had at Trinity was excellent, accessible, friendly, and helpful.”
Three years ago, after a tour in the Navy, Roger made the decision to leave the Armed Forces – in fact, had handed in all the necessary papers – when he was deployed to Iraq in 2004.
“I’d already been accepted to the University of San Diego School of Law, so it was about as much of a done deal as you can get.”
“But my experiences in Iraq (where he was awarded the Bronze Star) only amplified the sense of pride and satisfaction that I’d had in the fleet. So, when I eventually did show up at USD Law just a few months after returning from a year in Baghdad, my heart wasn’t in it. I finished my first year of law school, but decided to leave and get back to doing what I do best, which is defending my nation from people who wish us harm.”
“Out here, I don’t know where each day will lead me. I might have lunch in the country with an illiterate Pashtun goat herder, only to come back to Kabul and dine with a foreign head of state. And you know what? I’ll learn something new from both of them.”
“A few years down the road, when Afghanistan and Iraq are proud nations full of free people, I will point to them and lean over to my kids and say, ‘You see that? I helped do that.’ ”
Well said, Roger, and well done.