Before her pickleball career, she joined up primarily to enhance her Arabic speaking skills, a decision that coincided with a pivotal historical moment: September 9, 2001. The events that unfolded just two days later transformed her military commitment into something more profound.
Fresh out of college at 22, Barr found herself drawn toward military service, attracted by the Army’s reputable Arabic school and the opportunity to immerse herself in a culture she found fascinating. Despite the chaos of 9/11, her resolve remained unshaken, driving her toward basic training in South Carolina.
Talking about the post-9/11 atmosphere, she tells Deborah Lew from the APP, “It gave more meaning to what I was doing versus before, where it was just more of something to do and get my bills paid for, and then it definitely became more of an ‘okay, this actually matters more than I had ever really thought of before.”
Her journey through basic training and an 18-month language school was challenging yet uniting. Her initial aim to join the FBI or CIA shifted as she found herself stationed at Fort Huachuca and later at the National Security Agency, engaging in diverse roles from military intelligence to leadership positions.
Honoring The Sacrifice
Reflecting on her service, Barr admits to fortunate circumstances, having avoided deployment to active conflict zones, unlike many of her peers. Despite the varied experiences, she remains contemplative, especially on Veterans Day, honoring those who sacrificed and still struggle with the aftermath of their service.
“It sounds awful because I served during wartime, but I actually had kind of a cool experience myself, and I just found it fascinating,” she says. “There’s so much variety in what you’re doing.”
Her military tenure instilled a fundamental life lesson: finding value even in challenging experiences. “Any experience you go into, you can get something out of it if you choose to,” she reflects, emphasizing the importance of embracing both the positives and negatives.
An Enriched Perspective
Completing her service as a staff sergeant, Barr left the military with an enriched perspective, a mindset she carries into her current pursuits, including the competitive realm of pickleball.
At the end of her service, Barr held the rank of staff sergeant, an E-6 grade, and was overseeing approximately 60 other soldiers.
Her never-say-die attitude owes much to the diverse experiences and lessons learned during her time in service.
Elsewhere in Carlisle, England, wheelchair pickleballer and ex-soldier Gaz Golightly has his own tale to tell.
In 2002, a car accident during his commute to a routine guard duty shift in Wiltshire altered the course of his life. The accident inflicted life-altering injuries, leading to a double-leg amputation.
For over six and a half years, Golightly navigated life as a permanent wheelchair user. During this time, he explored various wheelchair sports, yet at 42 years old, he confesses that pickleball stands out as the most inclusive sport he has ever engaged in.
“There’s No Divide”
“It’s the first sport that I’ve ever done where there’s no divide,” he tells Abi Curran for Runcorn and Widnes World. “You can go to a training session, and you can play against everybody of any age.
“I’ve done wheelchair sports for the last 10 years; I can’t run, I’m not the greatest on my legs, so when you get in a chair, you get the feeling of being in control and moving around comfortably.
He even registered for the wheelchair men’s singles category at the English Nationals 2023 in Bolton. However, he is keen to talk about his greater mission of coaching other veterans to get them into the game as well.
The GB sitting volleyball athlete and former wheelchair basketballer has also recently qualified as a Level 1 pickleball coach. He took his new-found knowledge to Burnley Soccer Club, where he put on a session for 17 fellow veterans.
“When I got to my training sessions, you’re playing against anybody and everyone, whether they’re in a wheelchair or able-bodied kids. There are no restrictions, it’s brilliant.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?