Ayandria Barry: A mother’s honor

WTU Force Structure AW2 Advocate Ayandria Barry discusses military benefits with Chief Warrant Officer 3 Johnathan Holsey (Photo Courtesy Annette Gomes)

By Annette Gomes

Strategically aligned on Army Wounded Warrior advocate Ayandria Barry's desk are photographs of her children. Their smiling faces greet you as you enter her office.

But if you ask the more than 30 Soldiers that enter her office on a monthly basis, they will tell you, they too are part of her extended family.

Sgt. Tishara McClain (Ret.) relied on Barry during her transition to civilian status after serving 11 years in the military.

"The connection was immediate. I feel like I've known Ms. Barry for years. My children adore her,"McClain said. "She has been my confidant, counselor and a mom all rolled into one. I would have been lost throughout the process of retiring," she said

Barry likes that the Soldiers she works with think of her as a motherly figure. "That doesn't bother me, when they call me [mom] because being a mother encompasses so much. They can be friends, confidants, a listening ear, but at the same time, they will fight for their family," Barry said. "I let them know when they come in my office they will be treated the same way I would want someone to treat my family members

As an advocate, Barry helps Soldiers with their recovery and transition process, fostering the Soldier's independence. Together, AW2 Advocates and AW2 Soldiers collaborate to set goals for the Soldiers' and Families' future. AW2 Advocates are located at Warrior Transition Units, military treatment facilities, most Army installations and Department of Veterans Affairs' facilities to provide personalized local support on a wide range of issues and resources.

Barry did not serve in the military, but made it her mission to honor her father's legacy, who was killed in Vietnam when she was just two months old.

"At the time of my father's death, there was very little support to help the families of the deceased servicemen. There were no offices to go to, just departments such as the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Legions," she said. They didn't know anything at that time about benefits, so my mom talked to whomever could guide and help us,” Barry continued.

"When I took this job the only thing that ever went through my head was I can help someone get through the toughest time of their life and come out on the other side okay, but equipped with knowledge while honoring my dad."

In 2004, Barry was diagnosed with breast cancer. She says it was her Soldiers resilience that helped her cope with her illness.

"People couldn't believe that I continued to work through treatment and radiation, but I did because of the strength of the Soldiers and their families. By helping them, they were helping me," she explained. "I never thought about not getting up and showing up in life during that time, but they gave me additional strength to know that it was going to be okay."

Barry says although challenges may arise, her mission to help our servicemen and women is her destiny fulfilled.

"I think God puts us where he knows we will be needed and I was needed here as an advocate. No matter where these Soldiers go, we stay connected. It doesn't matter the distance nor the amount of time that's passed, I will always be there for them. It's about them feeling safe and someone having their back.