The New Jersey Army National Guard Armory at milepost 11 on the Garden State Parkway was dedicated Sept. 16 to the late Lt. Col. James F. Barkalow, a local hero.
Attending the dedication ceremony were Barkalow's family, friends, and local, state and federal government officials, members of the Cape May County Army National Guard Association and the 157th Field Artillery Association and many other members of the community.
The dedication came at the request of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Pierson (Ret.) and the Cape May Army National Guard, said Brig. Gen. James Grant, the Chief of the Joint Staff to The Adjutant General of New Jersey. The National Guard Bureau has only approved this honor once before in the state of New Jersey, Grant said, and the dedication to Barkalow is well-deserved.
"It's appropriate that the dedication be made the same week of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks on America," Grant said. "When people speak of 9/11, I often hear them say 'we must never forget.' I don't subscribe to that theory. I subscribe to theory that we must actively remember. Today, we are doing exactly that. We are actively remembering a member of the New Jersey Army National Guard."
Lt. Col. Barkalow, who died in 2009, was a highly decorated and distinguished WWII aviator with the 410th Bomb Group in the U.S. Army Air Forces in England and France. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, received nine Air Medals and received the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation. He also was the commanding officer of the New Jersey National Guard Division, Cape May County, for 19 years.
Then-Capt. Barkalow and several other veterans initiated the formation of the South Jersey Battalion of the New Jersey Army National Guard. He was officially retired in 1980 as a lieutenant colonel with over 28 years of military service, a career that began in 1942 when he enrolled as a Aviation Cadet in the Army Air Forces Pre-Flight School Pilot Training program. He had graduated from Wildwood High School just two years before, in 1940.
"What Lt. Col. Barkalow stood for some six, seven decades ago is standing right before you," Grant said as he faced the members of the 253rd Transportation Company. "It's for his leadership that great men and women continue to wear the uniform."
He said the dedication of the building will act as a constant reminder of his leadership and love for the National Guard.
"Though he may be gone, he is not forgotten," Grant said. "He will be actively remembered forever by the Cape May Armory."
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew presented a proclamation signed by Gov. Chris Christie announcing the honor and a distinguished service medal from the state of New Jersey to Barkalow's widow and wife of 68 years, Helen, and his three grown children. Van Drew said that although the dedication means a lot to Barkalow's family and friends who loved him, it represents much more.
"It represents the commitment and our dedication to the United States of America," he said. "More than a dedication of a building to a great man, it's a rededication of ourselves to the American dream. Our sacrifices and love of freedom outweigh any challenges America may face."
Barkalow's daughter Sharon Ellis said her father deeply loved his country and "his guardsmen" as he called them.
"He truly, truly, from the bottom of his heart, believed that what he was doing was making the world a better and safer place for all of us," Ellis said. "And I think he did that pretty well."
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