Prince is one of seven pit bulls owned by Barnes, an Army combat veteran. The dogs make up his own military unit. Prince is the field commander. Sateen is known as the first lady (although military units don’t have first ladies.) Xena is the master sergeant. Apocalypse — known affectionately as “AP” — is the first sergeant. Paris is the squad leader. The two smallest pups, Syria and Sienna, are his “gunners and runners.”

Barnes is homeless. He ran out of luck, money and transmission fluid when his car broke down in the hilly desert near the Caja del Rio landfill a week ago Tuesday. He’s waiting on his next monthly disability check to pay for repairs, but even getting the vehicle towed to a mechanic will be a challenge because he doesn’t know what to do with his dogs.

The National Coalition For Homeless Vets estimates that on any given night, about 48,000 military veterans are living on the streets. Barnes, down but still holding onto hope, says he has an idea to lessen the problem with a venture that would help homeless vets and their pets.

He’s been on the road since leaving his home state of New Jersey in February. He headed west, looking for a place to start his own ambitious American Dream. He calls it The Barracks.

The Barracks would be a nonprofit motel for veterans and their dogs. There, veterans could get a hot meal and a shower, a warm bed and a welcome mat for their dogs.

“Not a shelter, not a halfway house, not a hospital,” he said. “Just a place where vets can recuperate around other vets.”

Something tells him he was supposed to break down in New Mexico. Maybe this is the place to start The Barracks, he said.

Read a full article from Santa Fe New Mexican here

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