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NOBLE COUNTY, Ind.–When the pandemic began Hoosiers were short of hand sanitizer. One of the compnaies that stepped up and converted their operation was Hotel Tango Whiskey, the first disabled-veteran run distillery in the country. Its founder, Travis Barnes, says he’s a proud Marine, who joined up after 9/11.

“They were just kind of what you think on when you think of American badassery,” he told Terri Stacy on WIBC’s First Day.

LISTEN: Terri Stacy’s interview with Travis Barnes

Barnes quit college to join up, but after his service went back to college and eventually got a law degree and pilot’s license. But, his military days stayed with him and were on his mind when he and his wife created Hotel Tango, made possible when Indiana law was changed to allow craft brewing.

“We used the phonetic alphabet while talking over the radio,” he said. His wife is also a pilot. “It was just kind of a pet name we had for each other. Hotel and Tango. Her name is Hillary and my name is Travis and it also falls in line with a kind of military, phonetic alphabet.”

Though he had a law degree, Barnes said he decided to get into the distilling business when he discovered he wasn’t passionate about going into a traditional 9 to 5 law office every day.

His decision meant homeless veterans in Indiana were some of the first to get the hand sanitizer made at the Hotel Tango facility.

Looking back at the events of 2021, Banrs said he, like other veterans of the 9/11 era, was sad to see the pull-out of troops from Afghanistan and the effect that it had on that country.

“I think everybody kind of felt the collective, wondering what happened and was it all worth it. I think there was that for everybody,” he said. “I’m absolutely proud of my service, proud of what I’ve done. I think everybody who was involved in Afghanistan and Iraq was there to help, to do good by those people and for the United States.”

Barnes said he hopes the lesson learned is that the U.S. is more conscious about going into places.