Specialist Thomas J. Barbieri, 24, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, died on August 23, 2006, south of Baghdad, Iraq, when his patrol encountered enemy force's small arms fire during combat operations. Barbieri was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Thomas, known as "TJ", was the 2nd oldest of four boys and shared an unusual closeness with his brothers. They say TJ was the most naturally gifted of all of them and had a big heart. Growing up, his home was filled with noise and rough-housing and they all "got into trouble together," according to his brother David.
Barbieri attended Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, but transferred to Poolesville High School his senior year where he graduated. Prior to entering the Army, he was a member of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department in Rockville and his prized possession was his silver 1967 Mustang, a vehicle that had been passed down through the family. His family and friends remember him as a young man with a truly unique personality, sharp sense of humor and creativity. He was a talented artist and writer.
Specialist Barbieri, who served for six months in Afghanistan before leaving for Iraq a month before he was killed, was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Soon after, he was also awarded the Silver Star. During their last phone call with their son, Barbieri's parents said he sounded good; upbeat and strong. He told them he loved them and they told him they loved him. He had an insightful way about him. He was tough as nails but had an incredible knack for bringing joy, love and laughter to those around him. "He always talked about being a hero and he was," said his mother. "That's how he died, a hero."
The Barbieri family is supporting Achilles International through Dog Tag Legacy Fund. Their mission is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics in order to promote personal achievement, enhance self-esteem, and lower barriers to living a fulfilling life.
Every day, in parks, gyms, and tracks all over the world, Achilles provides a community of support and training to reach the goal of completing a 26.2 mile marathon. The Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, specifically, brings racing opportunities to wounded and injured vets as part of their physical and mental rehabilitation post injury.