The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|Bill Barnette has spent his life training to protect others|
Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
William Barnette is shown here with some of the recent awards and plaques he has received at local marksmanship championships.
Monday, August 26, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
A strong will and perseverance have paid off for William "Bill" Barnette, who has learned just how far practice and willpower can take a person.
Barnette, 56, of Rocky Mount recently won first place in his class at the North Carolina State Marksmanship competition, and he doesn't plan to stop there.
"If I can get a job and some sponsorship, I want to see how far I can go in these competitions," he said.
Born into a military family, Barnette has lived in Roanoke, Salem, Texas, Kentucky and "a little of everywhere," he said. "My father was in the military and was also a police officer."
Barnette remembers his father carrying around a bag of different types of candy, small toys and movie tickets for the lost children he would encounter as a police officer.
"The toys would make the children feel safe until their parents were located," said Barnette. "That memory was my idea of what a police officer should be."
Encouraged by his father to enlist in the U.S. Army, Barnette decided to make a career out of it.
"That's when I first got into organized and formal shooting," he said. "That's also when I first found that I actually had a skill for it."
After a couple of years in the military, Barnette's career was cut short when he was struck by a man on a motorcycle. His injuries led to an honorable discharge.
Barnette made his way back to Virginia, and the Army GI Bill allowed him to pursue an associate's degree in criminal justice.
"I was three credits away from getting my degree, when a friend of mine turned me towards a job as a bodyguard," said Barnette.
The friend noticed Barnette's love of shooting, attention to detail and protective instinct.
Barnette said he was intrigued by the prospect, and the VA (Veterans Affairs) sent him to Executive Security International, a body guard school in Aspen, Col.
Barnette said he loved the job, but it really opened his eyes to just how bad some people really are.
After working four or five years as a bodyguard, the thought of settling down became more and more appealing, Barnette said.
"I had begun thinking about a family and had started growing tired of being gone all the time," said Barnette.
Soon after, Barnette married Ann Love and the couple settled down in Rocky Mount.
"We live in the same home that Annie grew up in," said Barnette. "We love it here. I absolutely love Franklin County."
Working as an officer for the Virginia Department of Corrections, Barnette continued to practice his marksmanship skills.
"I was competing regularly at that point and doing pretty well," said Barnette. "I also picked up some martial arts skills. Anything that would help me get better at shooting. Back-up and help is usually a long ways away. I wanted to make sure I could help myself and protect the people I was charged to protect until help arrived."
After several years, the job started to require more and more time, and Barnette once again found himself away from home too often.
"My wife started encouraging me to stay closer to home," said Barnette. "My wife is a brilliant woman. I have learned to listen to her."
Soon, Barnette took a position with Brink's Inc., a U.S. security services firm, as a firearms instructor.
"As an instructor, I had lots of opportunities to improve my shooting skills even more," said Barnette. "However, I still didn't feel I was where I was supposed to be. I didn't feel it was my true calling."
Some friends on Carilion's Police Department encouraged him to apply there. After a short time, Barnette graduated from the police academy at age 53.
"Once, I had two broken ribs and was still able to run 3-4 miles," said Barnette. "The academy director called me a 'tough old bird'."
During his time at the academy, Barnette also served as class chaplain, helping young officers who were struggling.
"Some of the things you see as a young or new police officer are not easy to deal with or get past," he said.
Working as a police officer for Carilion was a a very active time and required a lot of multi-tasking, Barnette said.
In August 2012, while on duty at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Barnette was assaulted and suffered a concussion and an open head injury. He also sustained damage to the hamstring muscle in his left leg.
Barnette has spent the last year in physical therapy and recuperating from those injuries.
"Doctors and therapists kept telling me all the things I wouldn't be able to do," said Barnette, "but I'm not a fan of being told what I can't do."
Barnette began practicing hour after hour with a practice gun at home.
"I did over 25,000 repetitions of dry firing," said Barnette. "I also practiced pivoting and rebuilding all my skill sets. I finally decided I wanted to get into some state marksmanship matches."
Barnette started with a state match in Bristol, and said he surprised himself with his abilities.
"All my work had paid off," he said. "I don't know who showed up that day, but I hope he keeps showing up."
Barnette earned second place in his class at that match and did well overall.
"Over the years, Bill has worked hard to develop his talent of shooting, and the hours spent while recuperating from his injury have made him an even better shot," said Love. "He deserves to be recognized for his abilities, and I am so proud of him and his achievements."
Barnette recently entered the North Carolina match and won first place in his class.
"It was a very difficult match," said Barnette. "There were targets that disappeared, turned and bobbed. It was extremely challenging, but the practice paid off. I felt better than I did in the Virginia match. Not only was I back, I was better than I was before I was hurt."
Over the years, Barnette has received a myriad of other awards and honors from winning "High Senior" awards to "High Law Enforcement" and "High Veteran" awards.
"Friends, family and fellow officers have been very supportive of me," said Barnette. "I never expected people to stand behind me the way they have. That is one of the reasons I love Franklin County so much."
Barnette said he is ready to get back to work now.
"I have an unusual set of skills," he said. "I've trained my whole life to be able to protect people. I just want to be able to get back to doing it. I don't think there's any greater feeling at the end of the day than to come home and say that you truly helped someone today."
"Bill has always admired Superman, and he lives by Superman's creed of fighting for truth, justice and the American way," said Love. "He is truly a superhero to me."