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Native Americans' crucial role in Fort Barfoot renaming ceremony 'means so much'

Van T. Barfoot 'followed God, his family and his country in that order,' daughter recalls
Fort Barfoot
Posted at 9:31 PM, Mar 25, 2023

BLACKSTONE, Va. -- Fort Pickett, an Army post in Virginia's rural Nottoway County, was officially renamed Fort Barfoot, after Army Tech. Sgt. Van T. Barfoot, during a ceremony Friday.

Blackstone, Virginia
Blackstone, Virginia

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People who live and work in Blackstone’s quaint downtown will have to get used to their neighbor’s new name.

“It’s cool,” Jay Miller said. “I didn’t really know the history, but I think it’s a good idea.”

Jay Miller
Jay Miller

Wanda Falls said she doesn’t know how long it will take her to get used to the new name a she has known it as Fort Pickett for her “whole life.”

“I just don’t think we should forget our Confederate heroes,” Falls added. “They need honoring, too.”

The renaming of the fort is part of a broader Department of Defense effort to rename military installations that were named after members of the Confederacy.

Fort Barfoot
Fort Barfoot

The Virginia National Guard's 29th Infantry Division Band welcomed visitors to a base everyone has known as Camp or Fort Pickett for 80 years, but the ceremony was like no other because Native Americans played a crucial role.

“It means so much to us because we’re loyal Americans and Van T. Barfoot was proud of his Choctaw heritage,” Choctaw Chief Gary Batten said.

Fort Barfoot
Fort Barfoot

Col. James C. Shaver, Jr. said the fort is the first US military installation to be named after a Native American.

Barfoot was a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor winner whose exploits were so extraordinary that his name was chosen among nearly 4,000 candidates.

Army Tech. Sgt. Van T. Barfoot (1919-2012)
Army Tech. Sgt. Van T. Barfoot (1919-2012)

His four children were in attendance. His daughter, Margaret Nicholls said the man she knew as dad and her best friend was a reluctant hero, who was always modest, always devoted to duty.

“He followed God, his family and his country in that order,” Nicholls said.

Fort Barfoot
Fort Barfoot

On one day in May 1944 in southern Italy, Barfoot killed 8 Germans, captured 17 and rescued two wounded comrades. He received the Medal of Honor four months later.

But as several military officials pointed out, he continued to serve his country for decades more.

Fort Barfoot
Fort Barfoot

“It is fitting that this installation will forever be known as Fort Barfoot,” Lt. Gen Jon Jensen said.

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