U.S. Army doctor Vince Barnhart and his wife, Andrea, are the parents of six children. After their first two were born, they experienced the heart-wrenching reality of infertility. After much effort, even more prayer, and finally a surgery that solidified that there would be no more biological children, this sweet family had two failed adoptions. After nine glorious days with their first adopted child, the birth mother changed her mind and decided to parent. The second was even more painful. Two and a half months is a long time to bond, only to have your child taken away. But Dr. and Mrs. Barnhart are resilient. And their hearts opened again—this time to invite foster children into their home.
While stationed at Ft. Wainwright in Alaska, the Barnharts welcomed two foster daughters who became adoptable. Their parents were both in jail with no hope of ever getting parental rights back. They asked the Barnharts to adopt their children. These girls were part of the Barnhart family for nearly a year and a half. The Barnharts were in the middle of adopting the children when their biological grandmother fought for custody and won. Once again, Vince and Andrea had loved and lost.
But they continued to foster children as the military took them from one location to another. When they went to pick up one foster boy, much to their surprise, the child had been told the Barnharts were there to adopt him. Even though they had planned to bring in only younger children, they could not break his heart. And so they adopted Gideon.
The Barnhart family grew rapidly as they adopted four children, all with special needs. The combination of Dr. Barnhart’s medical expertise, along with the good medical care that the military provides, Andrea and Vince knew they were especially able to care for these fragile children. And so, despite the sometimes crazy situations they found themselves in as they pushed through adoptions even while being PCSed (Permanent Change of Station), Andrea and Vince continued to grow their family and to share their big hearts.
The family greeting their dad after his year of deployment in Iraq.
The couple was used to the nomadic lifestyle that is the norm for military families. But it’s not so easy for a child with an IEP to be uprooted from one school, only to transfer to another. Although the IEPs transfer with the child, it usually takes months for everything to flow again. But the family pushed on, with Dad serving his country and Mom serving the family.
During one period of their family life, after they had all six children, they lived in Germany. This was trial enough, but then Vince was deployed for an entire year to Iraq. During the year he was gone, Andrea not only cared for three difficult teenagers and tended to three young special needs children, but she also contracted Lyme Disease. It was a tough year for the Barnharts.
The six Barnhart children at their home in Alaska.
Dr. and Mrs. Barnhart would tell you that the love of family is important; the love of God essential; and the love of country, real. They would also have you know that much is written and stated about being a soldier or being an army wife. But too often military kids are overlooked. Sometimes, it’s the kids who are the heroes. Adopted kids, already having attachment issues, who have to learn to live without Dad for a year. Adopted kids who learn to be resilient as they try to believe that they really can make new friends again. Kids who grow to trust—even while learning to share their parents with the country.
In Germany, Lieutenant Colonel Barnhart poses with their oldest son, Ben, a member of the JROTC.