Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Obituary: Dwayne Barnett, 1977-2014

Family Man, Naval Officer

CORONADO – Dwayne Barnett was a kind and gentle soul who loved bicycling and underground music. He had the temperament and intelligence to bring calm to chaos, which made him very good in his line of work. Dwayne’s 19-year career in the U.S. Navy ended with him just three months shy of being promoted to full commander.

Commander-Select Dwayne Eugene Barnett died suddenly and unexpectedly May 7, leaving a wife and two young children. He was 36. The family has lived in Coronado for seven years.

Born December 22, 1977 in Walla Walla, WA, Dwayne was the oldest of three boys to Kenneth and Thaïs Barnett. His Native American mother was a registered nurse and his father a food scientist. The family traveled extensively across the country chasing job opportunities. Dwayne attended three high schools before graduating in Bedford, Virginia.

Dwayne, age two, sitting on his father’s motorcycle in Washington state.

He enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy at 17, graduating in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in English. His career in the Navy took him all over the world.

On Saint Patrick’s Day 2002, he met his wife, Heather Hayes, at Dublin’s Square, downtown San Diego. Hailing from Alameda, CA, she was finishing up her own studies at the University of San Diego when they met and fell in love. Two years later the young couple eloped and married in Sicily. They flew a priest and 30 family and friends out for the wedding, and balanced their honeymoon between travel and Dwayne’s shore duty.

Dwayne as a senior in high school, 1995.

Over their ten years of marriage, the Barnetts traveled and experienced numerous deployments that allowed them to see much of the world. Among the countries one or both had visited during this time were Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Malta, Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia, Africa, Russia and much of the continental United States.

At the time of his death, Barnett was working aboard the USS Essex as damage control assistant (at 32nd Street Naval Base) following a lengthy ship deployment to Japan. He often rode his bicycle to work from their home in Coronado.

On deployment on board the USS Peleliu.

“He loved biking,” said Heather. “It was his new found passion, biking and music. He spent much of his free time looking at new bikes and gear, researching new trails to ride and just keeping up with the latest in the biking industry. His next big adventure was going to be mountain biking.”

He also had a passion for searching out new bands of a variety of genres – bands that few had heard of. He loved attending live concerts and finding small venues to listen to their music.

Trip to Agrigento, Sicily in 2005.

Dwayne Barnett had the kind of job that would drive most men crazy. His title was Surface Warfare Officer but his job description was simply, “Damage Control.” Because of his skillset and meticulous attention to detail, he was extremely valuable to the Navy. Long deployments are particularly hard on the ships. It was Barnett’s job to go through the entire ship, from stem to stern, and isolate and repair elusive and technically challenging system complications and breakdowns. The job involved working long hours with large teams of personnel.

Work was extremely demanding, and he longed for more time with family. Barnett loved nature and the beach. He taught himself to surf and loved dragging his board up to La Jolla’s Wind ‘n’ Sea Beach. As their children got older he had big plans to introduce them to the wonderful sights and sounds of our country through family camping trips. In the end, there was not enough time. Despite being a great father and husband his life ended all too soon.

Heather and Dwayne at their Catholic wedding ceremony in Taormina, Sicily, September 7, 2005.

Dwayne Barnett was devoted to his family and his country. He was laid back, relaxed and happy. “He had a huge heart and never spoke badly of anyone,” said his wife. “As a child he was pushed around a bit,” she said. “Because of that, he grew up respectful of those around him and became a brilliant communicator.”

Following graduation from the Naval Academy, Barnett served as an English instructor at the Naval Academy Preparatory School and attended the Surface Warfare Officer School division officer course in Newport, RI. His initial assignment was as main propulsion division officer on board USS Peleliu (2000-2002) while home ported in San Diego.

Dwayne and Heather in Amsterdam, 2006.

While serving on Peleliu he completed a deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean and the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His second division officer tour was as assistant operations officer on the Commander, Amphibious Squadron Three staff (2002-2004), also in San Diego. During this tour he completed a deployment to the Arabian Gulf and the Horn of Africa in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Later (2004), Barnett transferred to shore duty at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily. Serving as security special operations officer for two years, he oversaw all harbor security, mobile expeditionary security, criminal investigations, and executive protection operations at seven military installations.

Benny’s first trip to Disneyland, 3 years old, 2010.

Following AEGIS Combat Systems Training at Dahlgren, VA and Surface Warfare Officer Department Head School in Newport, RI, Barnett joined forward deployed naval forces in Japan, serving as operations officer on USS Lassen in Yokosuka, Japan for one year. He then served on the staff of Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet in San Diego.

He served as Operations Officer on USS Mobile Bay (2009-2011). During his tour, Mobile Bay was the second ship to undergo AEGIS Cruiser Modernization followed by extensive sea trials, combat systems ship qualification trials, operational testing, and duties as Air Defense Commander for the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group.

Dwayne holding Benjamin at 2 weeks old in Newport, RI.

Commander-Select Barnett served as navigator on USS Boxer (2011-2013), completing a deployment to the Horn of Africa and Western Pacific, and was command coordinator during an extensive, ten-month Chief of Naval Operations maintenance tour. His awards include the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and various command and campaign awards.

Commander-Select Barnett and his wife, Heather Ann Barnett, have two children, Benjamin and Natalie, who plan to remain in Coronado. He is survived by brothers Jeep Barnett (Rachel) of Bellevue, WA and Kirk Barnett (Jengy) of Redmond, WA. He is also survived by his father and mother, Kenneth and Thaïs Barnett, of Seaside, OR. Also surviving him are in-laws Jon and Debbie Hayes of Alameda, CA and brother-in-law Jonathan Hayes of San Diego.

Private services were held May 20th, with ashes spread at sea. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the Dwayne Barnett Children’s Memorial through the Navy Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 3100, Merrifield, VA 22119 (Please write “For Deposit to a/c #3048872463” on the memo line. Routing number 256074974).

Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call [email protected], or (619) 742-1034.

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