Hispanic caucus calls for Fort Hood to be renamed in honor of Mexican American general
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is calling on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to rename Fort Hood after Gen. Richard Cavazos, the Army’s first Hispanic four-star general.
In a letter to Austin on Monday, the CHC’s leadership outlined Cavazos’s military accomplishments, and provided alternate options to rename the Texas military base.
Cavazos, who became the Army’s first Hispanic brigadier general in 1976 and first four-star in 1982, was a Mexican American who led the mostly Puerto Rican “Borinqueneers” in the Korean War and later fought in the Vietnam War.
Cavazos, who died in 2017, once commanded the Army’s III Corps based at Fort Hood, and rose to command the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson in Georgia before his retirement.
Fort Hood is currently named after John Bell Hood, a Confederate general with a mixed record as a military commander. He was an avowed white supremacist who continued expressing his racist views after the Civil War.
The CHC in Monday’s letter, which was headed by its chairman, Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), called on Austin to pick a Hispanic namesake for the site, given the size of Texas’s Hispanic population.
“The CHC’s advocacy is focused in particular on ensuring that Ft. Hood in Texas—a state where Latinos make up nearly half of the population—is named after a Latino or Latina hero,” the group wrote.
The letter was first reported by Suzanne Gamboa of NBC News.
Apart from the demographics of the area surrounding Fort Hood, the location bears a particular significance for Hispanic military families, as it was the site of the murder of Pfc. Vanessa Guillén.
Guillén was a Mexican American Army soldier who was murdered by a fellow soldier after she reported sexual abuse at the base to her family, but expressed fears of reporting the abuse through official channels.
The CHC lists Guillén as another potential namesake for Fort Hood.
“Tragically Spc. Guillen lost her life in 2020, but her death has been a catalyst for long awaited reforms at [the Department of Defense] concerning sexual assaults and sexual harassment,” wrote the lawmakers.
“Spc. Guillen’s career was cut short, but the impact she made will last for generations and will ensure women who elect to serve can do so honorably and without fear for their safety,” they added.
As the movement to rename bases honoring Confederates took hold in 2020, renaming Fort Hood after Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez got traction and some congressional support, but CHC leaders in their new letter to Austin said Benavidez’s name would be better suited for a different installation.
“While the CHC’s first recommendation is to rename Ft. Hood after Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, the CHC understands that MSG Benavidez’s background in special forces makes Ft. Bragg a stronger fit,” wrote the caucus’s leaders.
“For this reason, the CHC supports renaming Ft. Bragg after MSG Benavidez, but wishes to strongly convey the importance of also ensuring that Ft. Hood is named after a Latino or Latina hero,” they added.
Benavidez, armed only with a knife, helped rescue 12 service members trapped by a force of more than 1,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers in 1968.
Fort Bragg, headquarters of the United States Army Special Operations Command, is named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg, best known for his lack of military acumen.
The CHC lawmakers also suggested Austin consider the names of Staff Sgt. Macario García and Pvt. Marcelino Serna as potential namesakes for Fort Hood.
García and Serna were both Mexican immigrants who were decorated veterans of World War II and World War I, respectively.
“Sergeant García and Private Serna were both Mexican immigrants who bravely served our country during a time of need, ultimately earning Sergeant García a Medal of Honor, and Private Serna a Distinguished Service Cross award,” wrote the lawmakers.
“In the opinion of the CHC, it is far past time that the [Defense Department] honor these Latino servicemen’s service to our country, including by considering renaming Ft. Hood in their honor,” they added.