Brandon Barrett was a ghost for two months. From the time he got back from his first deployment in Afghanistan until last week, Barrett, a 28-year-old soldier stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was a specter as far as the U.S. Army was concerned. That changed on Friday afternoon, when Barrett was shot and killed during a shootout in downtown Salt Lake City.
"He really just seemed very happy to be home," said Barrett. "There was a smile on his face, and he said he was looking forward to going onto his next duty station."
What Bill didn't know was that his son had gone AWOL. On August 19, after nearly two months without contact, Barrett was labeled a deserter and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Police officers showed up at Bill's home, asking for his boy. Barrett wasn't home at the time. And when he left the next day, Bill assumed his final destination was Tacoma, back to his command. It wasn't.
On Friday afternoon, Salt Lake officers responded to reports of an armed man pacing in the middle of one of the city's busiest intersections. There they found Barrett, in full battle gear and strapped with an assault rifle.
Barrett opened fire, wounding one of the cops in the leg. The cops fired back, killing Barrett.
Barrett's unit, like many others in Afghanistan, suffered some casualties during its deployment. But there was very little indication of Barrett's inner mood, minus one MySpace message to a friend where he referred to the country as "Sucksghanistan." Under heroes, Barrett also listed Charles Bronson; England's most violent prisoner, not the actor.
Officials at JBLM declined to say whether or not Barrett received counseling or mental health treatment. They should be more forthcoming in the days ahead.