Air Force Pilot Describes Reliance on Faith
US Air Force Capt Hunter Barnhill is an instructor pilot with the 37th FTS in Columbus, Mississippi. Last year, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor:
[Barnhill] went to the flight doctor who sent him to Baptist Memorial Hospital for a MRI where the doctors found a brain tumor…
The intense nature of the surgery caused him to suffer from post-operative Supplementary Motor Area Syndrome.
SMA hit hard, rendering him unable to speak and paralyzed his right side. He participated in physical and speech therapy for three months and worked to gain his abilities to sit up, walk, run and speak as he had done only weeks ago.
While shocking and traumatic, the notable theme throughout the official Air Force article is the role of Barnhill’s faith, and the impact it had on both him and those around him:
Maj. Jesse Rosal, 14th Flying Training Wing T-6 Texan II Flight Safety Officer [said] “Through him he made our faith stronger…”
Hunter chose to lean into his spirituality throughout the months following the surgery.
“I’m a man of faith. I stand on the fact that God made a promise with me and we can stand on that promise,” Hunter said.
During his healing process he said he read scriptures and worked on memorizing passages to help his mind physically and mentally recover.
“Galatians 2:20 says, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,’ and faith is the keyword there for me and my ability to move through this.”
While certainly not the path anyone would choose, Barnhill indicated the experience with cancer had matured his perspective — and also given him opportunities:
“I have more opportunities with brain cancer than before my cancer diagnosis. If you asked me last year how I would feel not being able to fly, I would have told you that I’d be devastated,” Hunter said. “Sure it gets tough hearing the aircraft, but I do believe God instilled in me a passion for aviation and I don’t think He has given up on me or my passion.”
Barnhill was formerly a B-52 pilot before instructing at UPT. The context of the article indicates he is not currently flying while awaiting a Medical Evaluation Board.
Air Force photos by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb.