Fort Hood, the third-largest U.S. military base, was renamed Fort Cavazos on Tuesday to honor a Hispanic American Army leader rather than a Confederate general.
The base is now named after Gen. Richard Edward Cavazos, the first Hispanic American four-star Army general and brigadier general. He served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, the U.S. Army said in a statement.
General Cavazos was the recipient of a Silver Star and a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Korea, and a second Distinguished Service Cross for an episode in Vietnam.
“Gen. Richard Cavazos’s service demonstrates excellence at every level,” the Army said. “His 20th century service will inspire soldiers as they continue those traditions of excellence into the 21st.”
The change in Killeen, Texas, came as part of a military-wide effort to rename bases, memorials and other installations associated with Confederate figures. It began in the wake of the 2020 killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, as the nation grappled with racist legacies.
Fort Hood was one of 10 Army bases that had been named after Confederates, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, now renamed Fort Liberty, and Fort Lee in Virginia, renamed Fort Gregg-Adams, honoring one of the highest ranking African American officers in the Army.
Fort Cavazos’s previous namesake, John Bell Hood, was a Confederate cavalry captain after the Civil War began in 1861 and was promoted to major general the following year. He led Confederate troops in battles including the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Naming Commission, established by Congress in 2021, singled out bases, posts, ships, streets and other sites named after Confederates and recommended new names.
The commission was established in response to a public backlash against Confederate installations in the wake of the 2020 murder of Mr. Floyd, with Americans demanding that U.S. institutions and officials reckon with the country’s racist past.
Many of the new names across the country now memorialize women and people of color.
A sixth-generation Texan and the son of a World War I veteran, General Cavazos enrolled in the ROTC program at Texas Technical University and was commissioned into the Army in 1951 upon graduating, a U.S. Army statement said. He later returned as a professor of military science.
General Cavazos commanded the Ninth Infantry Division and III Corps. He first proved himself as a leader during the Korean War, the U.S. Army said.
“It was during that war’s closing days that he first distinguished himself as a leader, rallying his men to make three separate charges on a well entrenched enemy position,” the U.S. Army said. “Afterwards, he returned to the field five separate times to personally evacuate his wounded men before accepting treatment for his own injuries.”
In Vietnam, he spearheaded soldiers through an ambush, organized a counter attack and led maneuvers to destroy enemy defenses. General Cavazos served in the Army’s strategic branches at the Pentagon and as Defense Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
In recent years, the base has been the site of numerous violent events involving sexual harassment and death.
In 2020, the remains of U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen, 20, were found after she was reported missing in a case that prompted national outrage. Prosecutors said she was killed by another soldier, U.S. Army Specialist Aaron Robinson, who subsequently killed himself with a pistol.
At a renaming ceremony at the base on Tuesday morning, officials and soldiers celebrated the legacy of General Cavazos as a leader and trainer. After serving for 33 years, General Cavazos retired from the Army in 1984, but continued to mentor others throughout his retirement. He died in 2017.
The redesignation of the base involved changing more than 400 signs, a process that was about halfway through by Tuesday, said Chris Haug, a spokesman for the base. The cost of the project was not yet known.
General Cavazos frequently asked to be introduced to the junior members of any new unit that he met, said Lt. Col. James Tucker, who is retired and served in the Army with him. At Tuesday morning’s renaming ceremony, Colonel Tucker did the same in his honor, meeting and hugging a young soldier.
“None of you ever knew him and loved him like I do,” Colonel Tucker said through tears. “When I mention his name, I cry.”