RICHMOND, Va. –
The Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett will officially be redesignated Fort Barfoot in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient with extensive Virginia ties. The ceremony is scheduled for March 24, 2023, in the Fort Pickett area near Blackstone, Virginia.
The post is one of nine U.S. Army installations being redesignated based on the Naming Commission’s recommendations to remove the names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America. Of the nine, it is the only Army National Guard installation being redesignated.
“It is such a tremendous honor to name an installation where military forces train to defend our freedoms in honor of Col. Van. T Barfoot,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “His magnificent military career was marked by heroism and decades of selfless service to our nation, and his legacy will serve as an inspiration for current and future generations of service members.”
The ceremony will be open to invited guests and members of the news media. It is not open to the general public because of space constraints at the venue location, and a video live stream on VNG social media platforms is planned. The 29th Infantry Division Band will provide ceremonial music during the event.
Barfoot enlisted in the Army in 1940, later receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions as a technical sergeant in the 45th Infantry Division in May 1944 in Italy, while fighting against German soldiers and tanks. After World War II, he remained in the military for 34 years, including tours in Korea and Vietnam.
During his post-war career, Barfoot was an accomplished aviator, and is part of the Fort Rucker, soon to be Fort Novosel, Alabama, Aviation Hall of Fame. Retired Col. James Holden, a former VNG State Aviation Officer as well as former Virginia Army National Guard Chief of Staff, flew with Barfoot a handful of times in the early 1970s.
“Anyone who has a Medal of Honor, I only have good things to say about them. I don’t know a lot about his experiences in that, but he was quite a person. He was a gentleman,” said Holden.
After retirement, Barfoot settled in Amelia County, eventually moving to Henrico County, where he again rose to national prominence when his desire to be able to fly the American flag in front of his home in Henrico County was challenged by the local home owner’s association. Barfoot received support from many national leaders and organizations, eventually prevailing in his efforts.
Barfoot also has a significant Native American heritage, as his maternal grandmother was a member of the Choctaw Nation. To commemorate this heritage, representatives from Choctaw Nation as well as Virginia-based Native American tribes will be in attendance at the ceremony, which will include ceremonial songs and dance.
Barfoot passed away in 2012 at the age of 92. In addition to being the new namesake of the VNG installation, there is also a Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center in Richmond, Virginia, operated by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. A portion of a highway near his place of birth in Mississippi is also dedicated in his honor.
Read the Naming Commission’s full recommendation for Fort Barfoot at https://ngpa.us/23831. Read Barfoot’s full Medal of Honor citation on Army.mil at https://ngpa.us/24014.
BARFOOT CONNECTION TO THE VNG:
Barfoot served two different times as an advisor to Virginia National Guard units. In the 1950s, he served as an advisor to the 116th Infantry Regiment and later was the Senior Army Advisor to the Virginia National Guard until his retirement in 1974. Those jobs brought him to Fort Pickett for training with VNG units on multiple occasions.
“I served as senior advisor for the state of Virginia National Guard for four years. I love them, they’re dedicated people,” Barfoot said during an interview, part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. “I’ll tell you, the greatest asset we have now is our National Guard. They’re just complete Soldiers.”
According to the same interview, Barfoot briefly trained at what was then Camp Pickett with the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, the unit he fought with in Italy, prior to shipping out for Europe during World War II.
On his retirement as a colonel, the Virginia National Guard awarded him the Virginia Distinguished Service Medal. He is also the recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his combat service across World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
BARFOOT FAMILY RESPONSE:
Barfoot’s family, including three sons and a daughter, is excited and proud for his legacy to be honored by the redesignation.
“Our family is extremely proud of the honor that is being bestowed on our father. He was devoted to serving God, family and this great nation not only during his Army career but until his death in 2012,” said Tom Barfoot, Col. Barfoot’s son. “He wanted people to know that that his award of ‘The Medal of Honor’ was not just representative of him, but of all the men and women of this nation who sacrificed to meet our Country’s call.”
Barfoot’s other children are Jim Barfoot, Odell Barfoot and Margaret Barfoot Nicholls.
“Our father's greatest strength came from his abounding faith. He always put service over self. He served his God, his family, his friends, his fellow service personnel, and above all else, his country,” said Jim Barfoot. “We hope that those who see his name and understand his story will be inspired to serve as he did. It is such an honor to have the fort named after a man that sought nothing but to serve others.”
ABOUT THE INSTALLATION:
Fort Pickett sits on about 41,000 acres and is operated by the Virginia National Guard, which took control of the post in 1997. Built during World War II and originally named Camp Pickett, It features a combination of open-terrain and wooded maneuver areas, more than 20 ranges capable of training on nearly every Army weapons system, a rail spur and a C-17 capable airfield. It also boasts a forward operating base, multiple training villages and a Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, Fort Pickett’s urban operations training facility.
The installation’s primary customer is the Virginia National Guard, but also regularly hosts units from other states and services.
In addition to the installation name change, several buildings, roads and bridges will also be redesignated.