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Fort Hood Army base in Texas is renamed for Hispanic 4-star general Richard Cavazos

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A U.S. Army post in Texas once known as Fort Hood is not called that anymore. The Army dropped the name of a Confederate general who lost several big battles as his side lost the Civil War. So the fort is now called Fort Cavazos in honor of General Richard Cavazos, who served on that base and who was the first Latino to be promoted to four-star general. With very rare exceptions, that is the highest rank in the army. Carson Frame of Texas Public Radio reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ARMY GOES ROLLING ALONG")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL GROUP: (Singing) March along, sing a song, with the Army of the free.

CARSON FRAME, BYLINE: "The Army Goes Rolling Along." The song captures the service's past, present and future. It was a fitting tribute at the renaming ceremony honoring General Cavazos, the highly decorated Hispanic Army veteran of Korea and Vietnam who was commander of the base from 1980 to 1982. Sean Bernabe leads Fort Cavazos today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEAN BERNABE: General Cavazos was described by many as a soldier's soldier who earned admiration, loyalty and respect through his warrior ethos, through his selflessness, through his genuine empathy and through his unquestionable love for soldiers.

FRAME: The change at one of the country's largest military installations is part of an effort to confront racial injustice and inequality. Fort Cavazos was originally named for Confederate General John Bell Hood. Lawrence Romo was part of the commission to rename military bases. He says he hopes the name change will usher in a new era.

LAWRENCE ROMO: When you look at Cavazos, the epitome of a soldier's soldier, that's going to help the culture because you're going to have a positive role model instead of some traitor who didn't care for the United States of America.

FRAME: The Army is also looking to make the post more unified and safe. The Central Texas Army base was the target of intense scrutiny after Vanessa Guillen, a Latina soldier, was killed on base in 2020. An Army review found base leaders fostered an environment that allowed sexual assault, harassment and violence to go unchecked. Lisa Carrington Firmin is a retired Air Force colonel and part of the Hispanic Veterans Leadership Alliance.

LISA CARRINGTON FIRMIN: Renaming the base, this is a great thing, especially to honor a Hispanic individual who contributed so much to his country. But it doesn't change the fact that Fort Hood really needs to transform.

FRAME: And she hopes the new name is a start. Base leaders in the Army are changing how they handle sex crimes and other criminal investigations. They've also tried to encourage leaders to better care for their soldiers.

For NPR News, I'm Carson Frame in San Antonio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carson Frame

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