HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Holding her award to her aproned chest, right next to her Taco Bell name tag, Patricia Barson beamed.
“It’s my greatest dream in life,” said the Army Air Force Exchange employee. “I just want to serve people.”
Barson was honored Oct. 16 as one of the Department of Defense’s Outstanding Employees with a Disability. Patricia was selected for the award from among AAFES 32,000 worldwide employees.
Working the register at Taco Bell in Hill Air Force Base’s Exchange Food Court, she has served meals to thousands of Airmen — always with the same smile.
Those who know Patricia say her physical limitations, which stem from her being separated from her conjoined twin sister, have never dimmed her spirit.
“Patricia is very loving and giving. She deserves this award,” said her mother Kathie Barson. “She works very hard at what she does because she doesn’t want to be seen as a person with disabilities.”
Patricia and her sister Ashley were the second set of conjoined twins, fused at the cranium, to survive a separation surgery. When the twins were born, their parents, retired Air Force Col. Aaron Barson and Kathie, traveled from California to the University of Utah, where doctors successfully separated the twins. During the surgery Patricia suffered a stroke and she has limited use of her left side.
Ashley also works at the food court, greeting customers, busing trays, keeping the drink station stocked.
At the ceremony, the twins stood, shoulders touching, smiles nearly identical. Ashley said over and over again how she was proud of her sister, and Patricia said that she couldn’t live without Ashley.
The twins acknowledge that there have been challenges stemming from their condition throughout their lives, but they both are “blessed and honored” to work at Hill. They set little goals for themselves that make every day at the Exchange Food Court a good day.
“Working in food service is always fast-paced and it can be stressful, but Patricia always has a great attitude. She’s one of those people who always knows what to say and makes it great to come to work every day,” said Taylor Kipp, Patricia’s general manager.
The twins will travel with their family to Washington D.C. later this year where Patricia will be recognized during the annual DOD Disability Awards Ceremony.
“We’re super excited. We’ve never been to Washington D.C. before. All we can say is ‘Thank you’ to Hill Air Force Base,” said Patricia. Still standing shoulder to shoulder, the twins looked at each other and smiled some more.