Virginia National Guard soldiers during a technology demonstration at Fort Pickett’s Blackstone Army Airfield. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)
A commission tasked with coming up with new names for military bases christened for Confederate leaders, including three in Virginia, has released its recommendations.
The commission, created by the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 and made up of eight volunteers selected by the U.S. secretary of defense and Congress, recommends new names for Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County, Fort Lee in Prince George County and Fort Pickett in Nottoway County. All are currently named for Confederate generals.
The commission recommends that A.P. Hill be renamed Fort Walker after Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a New York feminist and abolitionist who during the Civil War became the first female surgeon in U.S. Army history and the only woman ever to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“Dr. Mary Walker’s service to the nation, perseverance over significant obstacles based on her gender and lifelong fight for equality serve as an example and inspiration for all Americans,” the commission said.
Adams commanded the first unit of African-American women to serve overseas, leading the 6888th Central Postal Directory in England, delivering mail to and from millions of soldiers fighting in Europe. Gregg was a logistics officer, who desegregated the Fort Lee Officers Club and who also served in Japan, Vietnam and Germany throughout the Cold War, rising to logistics director for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Both helped counter threats abroad through their service while mitigating prejudices at home through their performance,” the commission said.
Fort Pickett would be renamed for Tech. Sgt. Van T. Barfoot, a World War II combat veteran who won the Medal of Honor for heroism in Italy and retired in Virginia as a colonel, winning a battle against his Henrico County homeowners association to fly an American flag in front of his house.
“As his Medal of Honor citation rightly articulates, Barfoot’s ‘Herculean efforts,’ ‘extraordinary heroism,’ and ‘magnificent valor’ offer ‘perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers,’” the commission wrote.
The commission also reviewed Fort Belvoir in Fairfax, which was originally named after U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys in 1917 but renamed in 1935 after the Colonial-era plantation that once stood on its grounds.
However, “the commissioners determined Belvoir does not meet the criteria provided in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act for a renaming recommendation, but will recommend the Department of Defense conduct its own naming review of the post,” the commission said in a news release.
“This was an exhaustive process that entailed hundreds of hours of research, community engagement and internal deliberations,” said retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, the chair of the Naming Commission. “This recommendation list includes American heroes whose stories deserve to be told and remembered; people who fought and sacrificed greatly on behalf of our nation.”
The commission said the name recommendations were the result of “listening sessions” with commanders and community leaders and thousands of public comment submissions.
“Every single one of the names selected either originated from, or resonated with, the communities we engaged at the bases; and certainly were all suggested by members of the American public at large. So this list is as much, if not more, theirs as it is ours. And we are proud to present a slate of names that reflect the courage, values, sacrifices and demographics of our military men and women,” Howard said.
The commission’s final report to Congress is due Oct. 1. It also recommended new names for bases in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Louisiana.
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