The Oklahoman

Panel gathering input on new military base names

- Emily Caldwell

WASHINGTON – The commission tasked with renaming Department of Defense installati­ons that commemorat­e Confederat­e leaders spent the summer visiting military bases across the South to meet local community leaders and gather input.

Their first base visit was to Fort Hood in Texas, retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, chair of the commission, said Thursday. Fort Hood is named after Confederat­e General John Bell Hood, who commanded the Texas 4th Infantry during the Civil War.

“They were reticent at first, and I think they thought we were from the Beltway,” Howard said, referring to the world of Washington, D.C., political elites and policymake­rs. “Once they realized we’re like them, we come from different communitie­s where the base is important, there was a shift in the dialogue and more receptivit­y in hearing what the commission had to say.”

The commission of veterans from different branches of the military and even a sitting congressma­n – Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga. – has also begun to accept renaming suggestion­s from the public, to the tune of 27,000 since the beginning of September. Howard said Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez’s name has been a popular submission.

“There are some commonalit­y of names, from (Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh) Sherman, Benavidez and others,” she said. “I would say right now we’re probably talking about 5,000 names where there’s repetition of names. That’s still a lot of names.”

Benavidez was a Texas native, Mexican American Vietnam War Green Beret veteran and five-time Purple Heart recipient who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 for his heroic actions to save several wounded comrades in Vietnam.

A number of organizati­ons, including the Congressio­nal Hispanic Caucus and The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), have encouraged the commission to name a mainland Army base after a Latino military hero.

In August, the Hispanic Caucus wrote a letter to the commission to recommend Fort Bragg in North Carolina be renamed after Benavidez and Fort Hood be renamed after Gen. Richard E. Cavazos, the first Mexican American four-star general.

Fort Hood and Fort Bragg are on a list of 10 Army posts under review by the commission. Fort Hood’s 335-square mile base houses nearly 40,000 active duty service members, making it the largest active duty armored post in the U.S. Armed Forces. The III Armored Corps and III Corps, elite and highlytrai­ned fighting forces, are stationed there.

Howard said the commission visited Fort Hood and the rest of the bases to gather feedback from local communitie­s on the commission’s process and preference­s for potential new names.

“We have heard directly from local chambers of commerce, historical and genealogy societies, Rotary Clubs, school board officials, local national special interest groups, church leaders, businesses and many other organizati­ons,” Howard said. “And on top of that, we’ve met with individual active, reserve, retired and other former service members.”

 ?? WITTPENN/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN ?? Fort Hood, just north of Killeen in Central Texas, is on a list of 10 Army posts under review. BRONTE
WITTPENN/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN Fort Hood, just north of Killeen in Central Texas, is on a list of 10 Army posts under review. BRONTE

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