A Personal Note from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation Founder and President, Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein:
My dear beloved friend, retired US Marine Corps Major Bill Barker, passed away late last night here in Albuquerque New Mexico… Bill was an amazing military leader and extraordinarily excellent Junior ROTC instructor for decades and touched the lives of so many fine young people in America, specifically including my son Curtis… He was also a Member of the Board, a MRFF Thomas Jefferson Award Honoree, and a HUGE supporter of our Military Religious Freedom Foundation… Semper Fi and love forever to you my brother…. you will be missed and never forgotten!!! -Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein-
United States Marine Corps Major William E. Barker, in addition to being a MRFF Board Member, was the Chairman of New Mexico’s 1st District Democrat Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s Military Academy Selection Team and was appointed to the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission representing City Council District 9. Major Barker worked with Albuquerque Public Schools (“APS”), the 28th largest school district in the nation, as the District Military Instructor. In this role, he oversaw the district’s 14 high school Junior ROTC programs and new leadership programs in 11 junior high schools.
His other accomplishments included being selected to be on the NRA’s National Coach Development Staff, for which he worked with rifle coaches of all levels, and served as the New Mexico State Director for the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the American Legion Junior Shooting Program.
Over his 19 years as Junior ROTC instructor he sent over 65 students to military academies – the highest number of students referred to military academies by any one instructor in the nation. At least 10 of these cadets were appointed primarily for their marksmanship abilities. Accordingly, he became the main point-person for high school students aspiring toward military academy careers. APS created the position so that more students would benefit from his influence and instruction.
Major Barker enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1965 and, after six years of service, was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1971. He retired in 1990 as a Major, but anyone who had the privilege of meeting him can tell you that each time Major Barker “retired,” he simply took on a new challenge. In 1990, he undertook the task of instructing high school students in the Junior ROTC program at Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, NM. While teaching at Eldorado, a number of La Cueva High School students would commute to Eldorado to take his class and participate in either the JROTC drill team or the marksmanship team, which Major Barker instructed. As a result, he was approached by the La Cueva principal to start a JROTC program at La Cueva. In 1996 he transformed La Cueva’s auto shop into a viable Marine Corps JROTC and shooting range. Major Barker wanted to start La Cueva’s program with 30-40 cadets, but 80 students signed up for the program on the first day. This was one of many moments illustrating the reach of Major Barker’s influence, his ability to connect and communicate with students, and the excitement of expanding the JROTC program of APS.
Notably, due to Major Barker’s tireless efforts, every high school JROTC program now has its own rifle range. He assisted in developing the curriculum for the program, recruited new instructors, and managed a $2.8 million budget. Part of Major Barker’s success in helping students to get accepted to military academies was due to a class segment devoted to preparing resumes, writing essays, and the application process generally; this class is now included in the JROTC programs across APS.
Although many students would credit Major Barker for their successful careers – military or otherwise – he has also been forced to grieve the loss of students who have given their lives after faithfully answering the call to arms. In 2011, more La Cueva graduates had died in Iraq or Afghanistan than from any other New Mexico high school. In light of the number of La Cueva graduates who have lost their lives in the Middle East, Major Barker worked tirelessly to dispel the myth that military recruiters and the JROTC program prey on poor, disadvantaged students who may not have many opportunities after high school.