After more than eight decades, Fort Hood’s name was changed Tuesday to Fort Cavazos in honor of Gen. Richard Cavazos, a Texas-born decorated war veteran who was the first Latino four-star general and the first Latino brigadier general.
“There is no better namesake for our installation than Richard E. Cavazos,” said Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commanding general of the III Armored Corps, headquartered at Fort Cavazos.
“Let his name and all that he represents inspire us all every single day to live up to his legacy as a warrior, as a soldier’s soldier, as a master trainer, as a military innovator, as a coach and mentor and as a humble servant leader,” said Bernabe in his remarks during the ceremony.
The base got its new name after a yearslong process by the Department of Defense’s Naming Commission to redesignate installations that commemorated the Confederacy. Fort Cavazos was previously named after Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood.
Cavazos, who died in 2017 at 78, grew up on a cattle ranch in Kingsville, Texas, and was of Mexican American heritage. He commanded the III Armored Corps and took on numerous assignments as he rose through the ranks in a career that spanned 33 years.
Cavazos would earn a Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross for leading “The Borinqueneers,” a segregated regiment made up of Puerto Rican soldiers during the Korean War. Former President Barack Obama gave the unit, officially E Company, 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment, the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.
Cavazos also served in Vietnam in 1967, commanding the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, which earned him a second Distinguished Service Cross.
“This is the first prominent military base that receives a renaming for a Latino. I believe that sends a powerful message that this will be a continuation of other naming opportunities for other Latinos,” Ramiro Cavazos, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told NBC News.
Ramiro Cavazos, whose father was a first cousin to the late four-star general, attended the renaming ceremony Tuesday.
“This is a true hero that fought in the Korean conflict, in Vietnam, that everyone can point to and say, that’s a worthy hero,” Cavazos said.
Also attending the ceremony was Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, also known as LULAC, the nation’s oldest Latino civil rights group. Garcia described Gen. Cavazos as a “true American hero” and “a true Texan who served his country.”
Young Latinos and Latinas serving in the army can draw lessons from the precedent set by Cavazos, Garcia said. “Just because your last name is Garcia, Lopez, Rodriguez or Cavazos, it doesn’t mean that you will just be another cog in the system but actually that your contributions will be accepted and honored.”
Fort Cavazos is also the base where the remains of Latina soldier Vanessa Guillén were found in 2020 more than two months after she went missing. Her disappearance prompted calls from her family, Latino leaders and even celebrities for an investigation and garnered national attention. A soldier at the base shot and killed himself when police moved in to arrest him in connection with the case, according to authorities. Guillén had reported sexual harassment but no action was taken; her death led to several military policy reforms, including revisions to the Army’s sexual harassment and prevention program.
“We’re building momentum, and changing the name of the base hopefully will send a message that the culture needs to change too,” Ramiro Cavazos said.
The base was again in the news in March, when another Latina soldier, Ana Basaldua Ruiz, was found dead in the grounds. The Army stated no foul play was found but said there would be an investigation and acknowledged allegations of sexual harassment, according to some members of the victim’s family and friends who spoke with Noticias Telemundo.
Shedding Confederate names
Eight other bases with names connected to the Confederacy are slated to be renamed this year. They include Fort Bragg, N.C., which will become Fort Liberty; Fort AP Hill, Va., which will become Fort Walker to honor Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the first woman surgeon in the Civil War and the only woman awarded the Medal of Honor; and Fort Polk, La., which will become Fort Johnson after Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a member of the Harlem Hellfighters in World War I who was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor.
In addition, the Department of Defense is renaming military streets and buildings previously named after the Confederacy or anyone who fought for the Confederate States of America. Two cruisers are also being renamed and any battle streamers honoring Confederate service are being banned.
Fort Cavazos is home to the 1st Cavalry Division and other divisions and commands. More than 34,500 military personnel and 48,500 family members are stationed at the base, which is also used by the U.S. Reserve and the National Guard for training and mobilizing.
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