“There’s nothing that Dan will tell you he can’t do, I’ll tell you that.”
Almost anyone who’s met Dan Barnes, a Lowe’s associate in St. Robert, Missouri, will tell you the same thing: Dan can do just about anything, especially when it comes to woodworking.
With beautiful craftsmanship, Dan has turned countless chunks of wood into patio furniture, bowls, pens, and shelves. He’s crafted a grandfather clock, built bookcases, coat racks, chairs, even his own kitchen table. It’s a passion he latched on to a little bit later in life, when his military career took an unexpected turn.
For 12 years, Dan served in the U.S. Army. On his second tour to Iraq in 2005, his team was conducting a night mission when his vehicle was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.
“I saw a big fireball right outside my window and I knew that something happened,” Dan said. “I remember trying to get up out of my seat and right then I knew I was injured. I didn’t know the extent of my injuries, but I knew I couldn’t feel my legs.”
The blast caused such serious injuries that doctors were forced to amputate both of Dan’s legs. It took Dan nearly a year of therapy in Texas before he retired from the military and his family made the decision to move back to St. Robert, Missouri.
It was during this phase of his life Dan developed his new passion: woodworking. He went back to school to study the skill and began taking on all sorts of projects – for his own family and others. By this point, he was making multiple trips to Lowe’s every week, if not every day.
“Dan shopped here all the time. He would engage in customers, as a customer,” laughed Darlene Merritt, the human resources manager for Lowe’s of St. Robert. “One day I kiddingly said, you’re here so much I ought to pay you to come here. And he said, yeah you should, so I said okay!”
Lowe’s hired Dan in September of 2017. Every day since, Dan has been bringing his woodworking knowledge to customers and co-workers at the store.
“He knows the different types of wood, what they’re good for, he knows how to treat the wood, he knows how to design the wood,” Merritt added.
Having such an experienced and knowledgeable employee is certainly a win for customers of the St. Robert store. But according to those who interact with Dan on a daily basis, that’s not the only thing that makes him so great.
“His positivity is infectious,” added Brett Swanson, service manager for Lowe’s. “He’s really good at making people see the positive aspects of things. It’s hard to stay negative on a day that you have an interaction with Dan.”
Injury or not, Dan isn’t letting anything hold him back in life. He sees his disability not as a limitation, but as a challenge. A challenge he’s overcoming, every single day.
“I think everything led up to where I am today, for a reason,” he explained. “Whether it’s going to class to learn woodworking, to doing my own stuff, to working at Lowe’s, I think it all evolves into where you’re supposed to be.”