Staff Sergeant Natalie Rose Barajas was born to Kathleen Johnson and Javier Barajas on April 26, 1990. She passed away from metastatic breast cancer on May 12, 2020.
The second of four siblings, Natalie was the fearless defender and unapologetic peace-maker of the family from a young age; traits she carried through her time in grade school to her career as an Orthopedic Technician in the United States Army.
As a child, Natalie loved watching anime, playing video games, and reading with her sisters; playing percussion in the high school band; being a part of the local and school soccer teams; and participating on the debate team with one of her favorite teachers, Mr. McPherson. In her later life, Natalie delighted in learning about cryptozoology, exploring natural caves, and experiencing (reportedly) haunted locations. Her spirit of adventure and love for friends and family inspired those around her.
Natalie entered military service as a Combat Medic directly after graduating from Gaylord High School in 2008. From 2008 to 2011, she served at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, during which she deployed to Iraq and re-classed to an Orthopedic Technician. Natalie served overseas from 2011 to 2013, on two bases in Germany; Heidelberg and Landstuhl. After being promoted to Staff Sergeant, Natalie served in Fort Gordon, Georgia, as a Podiatry Clinic Supervisor from 2013 to 2016. Her final orders had her serving as an Orthopedic and Physical Therapy Clinic Supervisor at Fort Wainwright in Alaska from 2016 to 2019 when she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.
While working on base in Alaska, Natalie took great pride in her position as a volunteer counselor for women who had survived assault. She worked tirelessly for victim advocacy and built a strong relationship of trust with those she supported in her clinic.
During her career in the United States Army, SSG Barajas was awarded the following:
Army Commendation Medal (seven times)
Army Achievement Medal (five times)
Army Good Conduct Medal (three times)
National Defense Service Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (two times)
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon (two times)
Certificate of Achievement (four times)
"I think about Natalie constantly and always wonder what she would do in my situation. She's guiding my life even now," was the sentiment from one of her Soldiers and is shared by many of the people who met her. With Natalie's strength and loyalty, she always went above and beyond to be the leader to her Soldiers that she never had. Natalie devoted her personal time to mentor young Soldiers and guide them into the Army's various career paths. Natalie's Soldiers say that her wise words still guide their everyday life.
"Thank you for your hard work and tireless dedication to the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines, DOD Civilians and their families. Your selfless service has been a huge asset to our mission and you will be truly missed." â€”Orthopedic/Podiatry Clinic, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
A staunch supporter of the under-represented and LBGTQAI+, Natalie spent countless hours defending people and representing those who aren't shown on traditional media in her writing.
Natalie volunteered to help organize conventions and reunions around the country for her tight-knit community of writers and creatives. Even when she wasn't actively organizing events, she remained a leader to all those in the community, offering support and comfort to all who met her, even funding scholarships for those who needed a safe space but might not be able to attend events by their own means.
Always grateful for volunteers and those easily overlooked, Natalie was known for asking, and genuinely wanting to know, "how can I help?" and saying "I appreciate you" to everyone she encountered.
Natalie is survived by her wife, Jessika Barajas; mothers, Kathleen and Chris Johnson; father, Javier Barajas; siblings, Andrea Barajas, Marisa Costa, Mitchel Kasper, and Javier Barajas; countless friends, battle buddies, and comrades in arms; cats, Reginald and Calliope; and dog, Beauregard.
Service for SSG Natalie Barajas will take place at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan when the pandemic and social distancing precautions have been lifted.
Rather than sending flowers, if you would like to donate to Planned Parenthood or a local Women's Resource Center in her name, we are sure she would encourage it.