Erasing the Confederacy: Army changes names of iconic Fort Hood and Fort Benning bases

 WASHINGTON — Two iconic military posts are being rebranded as part of the military's effort to scrub the Confederacy's legacy from its bases, streets, gyms and ships.

Fort Benning, the Army's giant training base in Georgia, will now be known as Fort Moore, named after Vietnam War General Hal Moore and his wife, Julia. It previously honored a secessionist, slavery advocate and Confederate general.

And Fort Hood, the nation's third-largest military base, located in central Texas, is now Fort Cavazos, honoring Richard Cavazos, the first Hispanic American to become a four-star general.

"For me, commemoration represents our values," said Ty Seidule, a retired Army general and vice chairman of the commission that recommended the name changes. "These names will inspire soldiers and all Americans for generations. They represent the best of who we are as Americans."

Dig deeperConfederate names are being scrubbed from US military bases. The list of ideas to replace them is 30,000 deep.

A $60 million effort

Renaming some the Army’s legendary bases is the highest-profile effort underway to eliminate the decades-old veneration of Confederate officers who waged war against their country to uphold slavery. The Pentagon is spending about $60 million to strip the Confederate legacy from bases, streets, barracks, gyms and ships.

The movement gained urgency after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. Congress approved the changes, and the legislation survived a veto by then-President Donald Trump who sought to block the changes saying they would erase the legacy.

Retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard led the commission that surveyed the military and determined that hundreds of names required changes. The commission held public hearings and solicited 30,000 suggestions for new names.

Changing the names, Seidule said, "ensures we stop honoring those who killed U.S. soldiers, participated in armed insurrection, and tried to destroy the United States to create a country based on human bondage."

Removing the name Fort Benning, and replacing it with Fort Moore, gives an honor to Hal Moore, who was memorialized in a book and film for his leadership during the battle of Ia Drang in 1965, the first major battle between U.S. and North Vietnamese troops.

For one retired soldier, the base is Fort Beginning'

He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his battlefield heroism, which was detailed in the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young" and made into a film starring Mel Gibson. Julia Moore's support of the families of troops killed in that battle prompted the Army to change the way it makes death notifications.

Their son, retired Col. David Moore, refers to the post as "Fort Beginning," the place he lived as a 3-year-old, trained as a soldier and later served there.

David Moore admits to being shocked when he heard Benning's name would no longer be attached to the base. A 1984 graduate of West Point, he came from a generation that had been accustomed to Army bases in the south named for Confederates, and those in the north to be named for U.S. Army heroes.

As his understanding grew about how the current generation regards history, and how the culture has changed, Moore got on board with the idea of changing base names.

"It's kind of been a journey for all of us," Moore said.

In that context, naming the post for his parents made sense. They loved each other, their family, their soldiers and the profession of soldiering.

"In the end it’s the kind of force we put on the battlefield to win our nation's wars," Moore said. "I just hope and pray that this helps build a better culture for generations of soldiers and families behind me."

In Texas, that meant honoring Cavazos, a native of the state and a highly-decorated veteran of combat in Korea and Vietnam.

As a lieutenant at the close of the Korean War, he led three charges on a well-defended enemy position, returning five times to rescue his wounded men despite having his own injuries. For his heroism, he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest award for bravery.

The Army awarded him a second Distinguished Service Cross in 1967 for rallying his men in Vietnam through an ambush and counterattacking while exposing himself to enemy fire. Six years later, Cavazos became the first Hispanic American to reach the rank of general. He retired from the Army after 33 years. He died in 2017 and is buried in San Antonio.

His family made clear that he would have been uncomfortable with having a base named after him, Army undersecretary Gabe Camarillo said.

"He knew that there were many other deserving heroes whose names will never adorn an Army base and who never made it home from Korea or Vietnam," Camarillo said. "But this in many ways was who General Cavazos was. Selfless without condition, motivated by a deep love for his family, his soldiers and his country. And those values live on in the great legacy of public service in the Cavazos family.”

Troy Mosley, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and author, applauded the commission for selecting names that "reflect the diversity of those who have served and sacrificed for our country."

The changes "not only makes the armed services more attractive to individuals who may not have a family tradition of service,'' he said. "But it also makes our soldiers and veterans proud to see our values demonstrably reflected in our institutions."

More:American 'heroes' nominated to replace Confederate officers' names on Army bases

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.