Fort Knox barracks named for Kentucky Guardsman

Story by Maureen Rose, The Gold Standard

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Family members of Master Sgt. Morgan French, along with members of the Kentucky National Guard Command Staff and Fort Knox Garrison staff cut the ribbon to open the new barracks for the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Knox, Ky., Oct. 12, 2012. The building was named in French’s honor for his ties to Kentucky, Fort Knox and his service in U.S. Army Armor. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FORT KNOX, Ky. — “The namesake embodies the meaning of Soldier.”

The namesake being referred to was Master Sgt. Morgan French, for whom the Warrior Transition Battalion dedicated its barracks in a ceremony Oct. 12, 2012. The WTB serves Soldiers whose medical injuries or illnesses require six months or more of complex medical management or rehabilitation, and includes those from the active duty component as well as National Guard, and reservists and their Families.

Maj. Gen. Lonnie Culver, Deputy Adjutant General of the Kentucky National Guard, said French’s biography was better than any Hollywood story.

Culver related how French was a wounded warrior who served two more deployments after overcoming the cruel treatment he endured as a prisoner of war during World War II. French was the last survivor of the Harrodsburg Tankers, a Kentucky National Guard unit activated into federal service as the war loomed on the global horizon.

Shortly after the unit’s arrival at Clark Field in the Philippines in 1941, the Filipino-American forces were decimated by the Japanese attack on Manila airfield.  French survived the Bataan death march only to be shipped to a POW camp in Japan where he spent three grueling years, and witnessed the mushroom cloud that spread over Nagasaki after an atomic bomb was dropped.

After recovering, French returned to active duty, completing two tours of duty in Korea as well as the U.S. and Germany. He received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart during his 20-year career. After his retirement, he served another 20 years as an instructor at the Armor School at Fort Knox. He died in February.

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Family members of Master Sgt. Morgan French unveil a plaque during a barracks dedication ceremony at Fort Knox, Ky., Oct. 12, 2012. The new barracks named in French’s honor will house injured service members at the Warrior Transition Unit on post. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“He represented the thousands who served and paid dearly for the privilege,” Culver said. “My wish is that all who come into contact with this facility – Soldiers, family members, health care providers – will be inspired by Master Sgt. French’s story.”

Col. Bruce Jenkins, the Fort Knox garrison commander, agreed wholeheartedly.

“We got it right when we named these barracks for Master Sgt. French – he was an amazing hero and outstanding Soldier,” Jenkins said. “It only makes sense that he be honored this way.”

The $46.5 million barracks have 112 suites that can accommodate 224 Soldiers in the apartments that include bathroom facilities, walk-in closets, full service kitchens, laundry facilities and private sleeping quarters.

“What our Soldiers lived in before was good,” Jenkins added, “but these units are tailored specifically to their needs and most are handicap accessible.”

French’s son and granddaughter joined those cutting the ribbon to officially open the barracks, which were then open for tours. The barracks are conveniently located in the complex where the battalion headquarters are located, as well as the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, and just across the street from the hospital where most will receive their care.

“The Soldiers under our care will get what they need and get it quickly,” Jenkins vowed. “No one does it better than the U.S. Army.”

To see more photos from the ceremony, click here.

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