The recommendations are the latest step in a broader effort by the military under the Biden administration to address racial injustice, most recently after the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina is currently named for General Braxton Bragg, a senior general in the Confederate Army. It would be renamed Fort Liberty, the only one of the bases to be named after a concept, while eight others would be renamed primarily after people with connections to Army history.
Veterans shared their reactions to the name change at the 6018 VFW Post in Fayetteville.
“I understand how important it is that people want it passed and I would wholeheartedly support changing the name to something other than Braxton Bragg,” said Jack Pines, who spent most of his career at Fort Bragg spent.
Originally from Warrenton, Bragg served as a US Army artillery commander prior to the Civil War.
“I never found (the name) strange because of its location. He’s here in North Carolina. You can go up 95, how many miles up 95, you can see the (Confederate) flag,” Pines said.
Benjimen Washington, who also served in the military, added: “People recognized it 50 years ago, but they never wanted to discuss it. Except keep what they had.”
Last year, Congress passed legislation to rename all U.S. military installations named after Confederate leaders through 2023.
“There is always a time for change and we will leave it at that. Because what happened in the past happened, but now we have a chance to change it,” Washington said.
Others took the name Liberty.
“There’s a reason liberty is written in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, firmly tied to our currency, and tied to our national symbols, statues and monuments,” said Ty Seidule, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who is a member of Naming Commission is. “Throughout our history, freedom remains the greatest value. Ever since the nation created a standing army to provide common defense, that army’s greatest battles have been for freedom. In the Revolutionary War, United States soldiers fought to establish liberty for our nation, in the Civil War, they fought for the liberty of all Americans, and in World War II, they fought to expand liberty throughout much of the world.
“This post is home to the Airborne and Army Special Forces,” he added. “The 82nd Airborne Song, which I so proudly sang while stationed there, has a line that says, ‘We’re All-American,’ and proud of it. Because we’re the soldiers of liberty.” And freedom also anchors the motto of the special forces”,
Seidule said the naming commission received more than 34,000 recommendations and worked directly with communities surrounding the nine sites.
Behind the camera, two veterans opposed the push to change the name, which had existed since 1918, with one pointing out the financial cost of doing so.
“Part of our responsibility to Congress is to provide a full accounting of the costs. We don’t have that ready yet, but we will publish it in the final report to be submitted to Congress on October 1,” said Seidule, who said from there it would go to the Secretary of Defense, who has the authority to formalize the renaming to direct.
The list recommends naming bases after women and Black soldiers for the first time.
Fort Polk, in Louisiana, would be renamed Fort Johnson, after Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a Black Medal of Honor recipient who served in the Army during World War I.
Fort AP Hill in Virginia was renamed Fort Walker after Mary Edwards Walker, a doctor who treated soldiers in the Civil War and later received a Medal of Honor.
The other bases to be renamed are Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Rucker in Alabama, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia, and Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia.
The panel has recommended renaming Fort Hood, Texas, after Richard E. Cavazos, the first Latino to achieve the rank of four-star general in the Army.
Fort Gordon, Georgia is renamed for General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Army general who led all Allied forces in Europe during World War II and later became President.
Fort Lee, Virginia will be named for two people: Arthur Gregg, a former three-star general who works in logistics — the only living person for whom a base is named — and Charity Adams, the first African American officer in the Auxiliary Corps of the Women’s Army.
Fort Pickett, Virginia is named for Van Barfoot, who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during World War II and is of Native American descent.
Fort Benning, Georgia will be renamed for Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, an air cavalry pioneer whose Vietnam-era history was captured in the book and film We Were Soldiers.
Fort Rucker, Alabama is named for Michael Novosel, a Medal of Honor winner who flew fighter aircraft in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
For years, US military officials had defended naming bases after Confederate officers. As late as 2015, the army argued that the names did not honor the rebel cause, but were a gesture of reconciliation with the South.
But after Floyd’s murder and the months of racial unrest that followed, Congress pushed for a sweeping plan to rename military posts and hundreds of other federal properties, such as roads, buildings, monuments, signs and landmarks that honored rebel leaders.
The change in military thinking was reflected in a congressional testimony by Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a month after Floyd’s death. He said the base names may serve as a reminder to black soldiers that rebel officers fought for an institution that may have enslaved their ancestors.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin – the nation’s first Black Pentagon chief – has been outspoken about his personal struggle with racism. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he recounted his service as a lieutenant colonel with the 82nd Air Force at Fort Bragg, when three white soldiers, described as self-proclaimed skinheads, were arrested in the killing of a black couple walking down the street .
Investigators concluded that the two were targeted because of their race, and in total 22 soldiers were associated with skinheads and other similar groups or held extremist views.
Current Air Force chief General Charles Q. Brown released an emotional video last June in which he discussed the difficulties he experienced as a young black pilot. Brown, the Black Air Force’s first chief, says he had to work extra hard to prove to white superiors “that their expectations and perceptions of African Americans were wrong.”
Established in 2020, the Naming Commission first met in March 2021 and began accepting naming recommendations from the public in September. In all, the Commission received more than 34,000 potential names, including approximately 3,670 unique names that could potentially be used. This list was later narrowed down to about 100 names before the last nine were chosen to be recommended to Congress.
At the time, the commission said its mandate was to select names that “appropriately reflect the bravery, values, sacrifices and demographics of the men and women in our armed forces, taking into account the local or regional significance of names and their potential.” inspire and motivate service members.”
The panel is also considering new names for two Navy ships: the USS Chancellorsville and the USNS Maury.
A final report is due to be submitted to Congress by October 1 and will include the cost of removing and changing the names. According to the law, the Minister of Defense should implement the Commission’s plan by January 1, 2024 at the latest.
ABC11’s Michael Perchick and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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https://abc7.com/fort-bragg-new-name-liberty-confederate/11889560/ Fort Bragg could be renamed Fort Liberty to remove Confederate names from Army bases