Jan. 28, 2010

Open house showcases Fort Pickett history

By Maj. Tim Donnellan
Fort Pickett Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va., Fort Pickett held an house Jan. 14 in Building 318 to highlight Fort Pickett’s history and archaeological offerings.

 

The flag used by the First Virginia Regiment in Mexico. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia National Guard)

The event was co-hosted by retired Chief Warrant Officer John W. Listman Jr., Fort Pickett historian, and Beverly Boyko, historical collections manager. 

“The event was a great success,” said Listman.  “The turnout was more than expected, with over 80 military and civilian personnel attending the event. One of our main goals is to raise awareness, not only of the past but also of what are service members are doing today. 

“In 20 or 30 years, I want people to be able to know about those who are currently fighting,” Listman added. “We are fighting a war on two fronts and we must protect and honor their service. People are constantly contacting me and trying to learn about a relative who served in the Virginia Guard.  I want to make sure we have answers for them in the future.”

Many hope that the open house was a precursor to a Virginia National Guard museum. 

“The Virginia National Guard needs a museum,” said Col. Thomas P. Wilkinson, commander of the Maneuver Training Center. “We owe it to our Soldiers and Airmen past, present and future; there needs to be a place that captures and tells the stories of our history.  Whether it is located at Fort Pickett or somewhere else is up to others, but we need a museum that we can call home. 

“I would certainly like a museum at Fort Pickett, and perhaps that may happen in the interim as a suitable site is selected,” Wilkinson continued. “Fort Pickett itself has a distinguished past and I would certainly like to develop a museum here as well.”

There are over 2,000 historical objects and thousands of archeological items housed in the collection which, in addition to the Virginia Guard Historical Collection, includes the Environmental Program’s archeological collections from excavations conducted on Fort Pickett and numerous Fort Pickett historical items as well. 

 

John Listman reviews ones of the exhibits at the history open house. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia National Guard)

“Many visitors were very interested in the Native American and historic artifacts and fascinated to learn that they were all found on Fort Pickett,” said Boyko. 

Two of the most popular military items at the open house were the uniform worn by Spc. Monica Beltran and a Mexican War flag.

Beltran served as a turret gunner in Iraq with the 1173rd Transportation Company. On Oct. 20, 2005, while her team was escorting a civilian convoy, it was attacked with improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms fire. Beltran, though wounded in one hand, maintained her .50-caliber suppression fire, pinning down enemy fighters and allowing enough time for the convoy to clear the “kill zone” and regroup.

Though one Soldier was killed and several others were injured during the attack, Beltran was credited with saving 54 lives by her quick and determined action in giving effective covering fire. For her actions that day she was award the Bronze Star Medal with “V” for Valor and a Purple Heart for being combat wounded. She is the first woman in the history of the Virginia to earn either, much less both awards.

Today, while one other female Soldier has received the Purple Heart since Beltran, no other woman has received another combat decoration equivalent to or higher than her Bronze Star Medal with V device. She remains in the Virginia Guard, and now serves in the 1710th Transportation Company. 

“The Mexican War Flag is only one of about 12 volunteer flags from that war in existence today,” said Listman. “It was used by the First Virginia Volunteer Regiment during its tour of duty in northern Mexico from 1846-1848. While the regiment was raised for foreign service, most of its members, who were all volunteers, were drawn from existing Virginia militia units. Today its lineage is carried by the 276th Engineer Battalion.” 
 
Listman is no stranger to history. He served for 18 years as the command historian for the Virginia Guard and welcomes inquiries.This was evident when a young officer asked if he could bring his Soldiers to see the exhibits. Listman gladly obliged and welcomed them anytime, with advanced notice.

The history office can be reached at 434- 298-5321 or at jhistory@vt.edu to schedule an appointment.

“We are only here for a short while, but the history and stories live on long beyond our years,” Wilkinson said. “We need to ensure that history and lineage is not lost to time, it's a great story worth exhibiting.”

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