Vet hopes to rename Jackson armory

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Submitted photo Staff Sgt. Bradley Skelton

Nearly four months ago, Staff Sgt. Bradley Skelton, 40, of Gordonville was killed on the battlefield in Iraq.

Now, a fellow member of Skelton's battalion is keeping his memory alive through efforts to rename the National Guard armory in Jackson in honor of the fallen soldier.

"It's a tradition that if a soldier dies while serving his country in battle, something is renamed or dedicated in his honor," said Ross Gartman, a mortgage loan officer at the Bank of Missouri in Cape Girardeau and former member of the Missouri National Guard's 1140th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Jackson.

Skelton had served with the 1140th since his enlistment with the unit in 1984. In 2005, Skelton served his first tour of duty in Iraq and initially retired from the Guard upon his return.

Two years ago, Skelton came out of retirement to serve his second tour, this time with the 1138th Engineer Company based in Farmington. He was killed by an explosion in Baghdad on Feb. 6.

"Brad actually wanted to go to Iraq so another fellow soldier would be able to stay at home with his family, since Brad was single and didn't have any kids of his own," Gartman said. "That's just the kind of person Brad was — willing to help out and sacrifice for the generations that would follow."

Gartman said it was that sacrifice that prompted him to explore the idea of renaming the Jackson armory in honor of Skelton.

Because the armory is a government building, two courses of action can be taken for renaming the structure.

Either a bill to change the name can be passed by the state legislature or the renaming can meet the approval of the Missouri Army National Guard facilities board. If it is approved there, it is forwarded to the state adjutant general's office for final approval. The letters of support will be reviewed after the 30-day period by the facilities board and Maj. Gen. King Sidwell.

An ad was placed in Jackson's Cash-Book Journal on May 23 requesting letters over the next 30 days that support or decry the effort. After that period has ended, the letters will then be submitted to the adjutant general's office for approval.

If the Guard's board doesn't approve the name change, supporters will try to get a bill passed.

Gartman already has received letters of support from U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson; state Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau; and state Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson. But he is seeking more letters within the next few weeks from other elected officials and those in support of Skelton.

Those wishing to send letters may e-mail rgartman@bankofmissouri.com.

bblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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