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Latino lawmakers push for renaming Fort Hood after first Hispanic four-star general

Gen. Richard E. Cavazos, who was Mexican American, earned the Silver Star, twice earned the Distinguished Service Cross and led the Puerto Rican regiment “The Borinqueneers."

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is asking the Biden administration to rename Fort Hood in Texas after Gen. Richard E. Cavazos, the first Mexican American four-star general.

Cavazos was the first Hispanic to reach the rank of brigadier general, accomplished in 1976. He also broke barriers when he became the first Hispanic appointed four-star general in 1982. He died in 2017.

A native of Kingsville, Texas, Cavazos  commanded III Corps, headquartered at Fort Hood.

“He overcame racism and other obstacles through his 33 years of service and eventually led the U.S. Army Forces Command, making him one of the highest-ranked Army officials of his time,” the caucus said in its letter to the administration sent Monday.

Image: Gen. Richard E. Cavazos
Gen. Richard E. Cavazos.US Army / U.S. Army

Cavazos earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross for leading the all-Puerto Rican regiment “The Borinqueneers”, during the Korean War and later in Vietnam.

He also earned the Distinguished Service Cross for exposing himself to enemy fire and exploding grenades while commanding the 1st Battalion in Vietnam. His final command was leading the U.S. Army Forces Command, the largest U.S. Army Command.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus made the request in the letter sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the commission that will make recommendations on the renaming of military properties that are named for Confederates.

The letter follows one sent in April to the commission tasked with renaming bases and other military properties that were named for Confederates.

"The CHC would like to bring to the Commission’s attention that for far too long the contributions of Latinos, Latinas, and especially Afro-Latinos have been largely overlooked in our country," the letter states.

The caucus and Democratic members of the Armed Services Committee asked the commission to change the criteria for naming bases so that enlisted personnel, rather than only high-ranking officers, could be considered.

The caucus noted then that discrimination and racism have kept many Latinos, Blacks and other nonwhite military members from being elevated in the ranks or entering service as officers.

The caucus previously supported renaming Fort Hood after Medal of Honor winner Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez, a Texas native who served valiantly in Vietnam.

The caucus now says it recognizes that Fort Bragg in North Carolina would be a better fit for honoring Benavidez, who was a Green Beret, officially known as Army Special Forces, based at Fort Bragg.

The caucus said it is now focused on making sure Fort Hood, a sprawling Army post in Texas where the latest census numbers show near parity in the white and Latino populations, is named for a Latino or Latina.

“For generations, Latinos have fought for our nation with valor, but rarely have been recognized for their contributions. Renaming Fort Hood is an opportunity to commend those sacrifices, particularly to honor Texans of Mexican American heritage," said Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, the past president of the caucus.

The caucus also suggested alternative names for the honor: Pvt. Marcelino Serna, Texas’ most decorated World War I soldier, as well as Medal of Honor winner Army Staff Sgt. Macario García, a Mexican immigrant who was attacked at a Texas restaurant because of his heritage. 

Serna earned the Distinguished Service Cross and there is an ongoing campaign to award him the Medal of Honor, which his supporters say he was deprived of because of racism.  

The caucus also is recommending naming Fort Hood after Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who was serving at Fort Hood when she was killed in 2020.  A suspect in her death, another soldier, killed himself as police were about to arrest him. 

Guillén's body was discovered only after protests by the family and Latino activists and lawmakers pushed for an investigation after she went missing. Her death led to the drafting of federal legislation addressing sexual assaults and crimes in the military and reforms at the Department of Defense.

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