FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — When the curtain fell away to reveal the new signage, a new legacy began at the III Armored Corps formation of the U.S. Army, headquartered near Killeen, Texas.
Fort Cavazos, a name of Hispanic decent, is now greeting those who drive by the military installation following the former Fort Hood's redesignation on May 9. For over seven decades, the instillation bore the name of John Bell Hood, a Confederate leader.
It was after the nationwide turmoil of 2020 that spilled into 2021 that Congress moved to change that, through a newly formed federal Naming Commission that worked to distance military posts from Confederate legacies.
“The George Floyd incident was the catalyst," said former Commissioner Lawrence Guzman Romo. "It’s very unfortunate what happened to George Floyd, so that was the catalyst that got Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for our Naming Commission to look at these."
Romo was one of eight commissioners tasked with finding new names for instillations that had once honored Confederate soldiers. In all, nine installations across the country underwent or are undergoing name changes as part of the Defense Authorization Act.
“A lot of people have said, 'Well, we are rewriting history.' In reality, we’re not rewriting history. This is history that should have never happened," Romo said. "The Confederates, they were killing American troops. You shouldn’t honor somebody like that. So now we are honoring true American heroes in our country."
The Naming Commission focused on names that represent minority groups.
“What’s important is the Department of Defense, the military, we are a demographic of our society... most of our military instillations were just named after whites, so it was an opportunity for us to seek and have some diversity,” Romo said.
With the help of the community and advocacy groups like LULAC, they landed on General Richard Edward Cavazos as an option for the III Armored Corps.
“He symbolizes the American dream for Latinos and what we can achieve when we put our minds to it. He’s a fantastic role model," said Rodolfo Rosales Jr., Texas state director for LULAC. “It’s a small step and a huge leap at the same time, ironically, but also that he was an American hero. I think that’s important.”
General Richard Edward Cavazos was a Texas native who made history in 1982 as the Army's first Hispanic four star general. A hero of the Korean and Vietnam wars, he served in the U.S. Army for 33 years.
Cavazos spent some of his final years in the Alamo City before dying in 2017. He was buried here, at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
“We have to remember we don’t live in a vacuum," Rosales said. It’s about all of us, so if we are going to learn about Ulysses S. Grant and we are going to learn about George Washington, we should learn about General Cavazos."
The boots on the ground are in support of the move.
“I think being able to focus on telling the stories of leaders who have come before us, who look like us, who in some cases know our own language—I think that’s significant," said Tonya Donovan, spokesperson for III Armored Corps at Fort Cavazos. "And I think that representation really strikes you to the core, because you can see yourself as a leader growing into their shoes as well."
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