Rosewood sailor aboard submarine that went aground
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 12, 2005 2:11 PM
Tuesday night's phone conversation between Roxann Barnes of Rosewood and her Navy son Bryan was brief but priceless. The days preceding it had been fraught with emotion.
On Saturday, she came home to find a phone message from a naval friend, inquiring about the status of her son. The USS San Francisco, a 360-foot submarine, had reportedly run aground about 35 miles south of Guam. One crewman was reported killed and 23 others were critically injured.
Roxann Barnes and husband Dean admit they were thrown off course by the news. But more so, they say they were disturbed at the lack of communication from the military.
"We were not notified by anybody that's official," Mrs. Barnes said. Instead, the couple worked fervently until they got some answers.
They called their friend back twice before reaching him, they said. They refused to leave the house and would not turn on the television until they could find out any news about their son. Mrs. Barnes also put the word out for friends and family to say prayers for those on the submarine.
Then in Sunday's News-Argus, Mrs. Barnes said, she found an article about the accident that included a Web site. The site provided a phone number to call.
Mrs. Barnes said she wanted to talk to someone directly about the accident and was able to contact the U.S. Pacific Fleet public affairs office that day. She was relieved to learn that her son was not among those critically injured.
At 2 a.m. Monday, the Barneses answered their phone and heard the voice of their 21-year-old son.
"He said everybody in Guam was trying to get up with family members," Barnes said. "By the time they got into port, he called us.
"I could hear all the commotion in the background. They were being loaded onto a bus to go for treatment."
Barnes said his son could not talk about the incident in detail but described it as being "like slamming into a wall."
The second conversation with their son came unexpectedly Tuesday night.
"He's sore. He's tired. But he's still working," the relieved mother said after she hung up. "He's been on duty every since."
"This is an unusual situation," Barnes said. "They're all banged up, but it's a nuclear sub. You don't just come back and lay around. They're back on duty, all of them."
Mrs. Barnes said her son sounded good, considering what he's been through over the past few days.
"You can tell that they have been through some trauma, but he's a tough kid. By the grace of God, he got back."
She said she told her son, "I just needed to hear your voice. He said, 'I needed to hear your voice, too.'"
She said he also asked that she wish his older brother a happy birthday. Rocky Barnes, who also lives in the Rosewood area, turned 24 on Monday.
The Barneses say their son loves the Navy and is proud to be a sailor. An avid surfer since he learned to swim as a boy, he also enjoys photography and art, his mother said. He has been to Hawaii three times, might even choose to live there one day, and has the goal of surfing in every ocean, says Dad.
He graduated from Rosewood High School in 2001, enlisting in the Navy later that year. He holds the rank of E-5 and has re-enlisted through 2010. He also aspires to get into the officers program.
He has been stationed on Guam since 2003, say his parents. The last time he was home for a visit was in September, when his uncle Ron died.
"We are so grateful to Commander Kevin Mooney for granting him three weeks emergency leave to be with us," Mrs. Barnes says.
News reports say the San Francisco returned Monday to her home port of Apra Harbor, Guam. She is one of three submarines based on Guam.
Officials are investigating the accident, which reportedly occurred while the submarine was conducting underwater operations. The Barneses say they are reserving judgment.
"Accidents happen," said Mrs. Barnes. "The investigation will reveal the cause. Blame will not heal the pain of the loss."
She said the family is grateful that Bryan is all right and credits being able to cope throughout the ordeal because of its faith.
"You just try to be as positive and upbeat as you can," she said. "But we do believe there should be a better system for notifying families."
As parents, she said, "We have always been very open with our children and supported their choices. Bryan's gotten to see the world, and he's doing what he loves."
Barnes said after what happened, he told his son, "I don't think I could get back in that sub. He told me, 'I've got a job and I'm committed to do it.'
"He has always said, 'I'm not a quitter.'"
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