Fort Hood’s renaming will serve as a fitting tribute to the Army’s first Hispanic four-star general, three retired generals who adored the Texan told Fox News.
The Central Texas post will be named after the late General Richard Cavazos, a hero of the Korean and Vietnam wars who demonstrates “bravery and leadership” throughout his military career, according to the Pentagon. It is one of nine army posts nationwide which will be renamed as part of Department of Defense efforts to remove Confederate-affiliated symbols from military property.
“I think it’s a wonderful tribute,” retired Lt. Gen. Robert T. Clark told Fox News. “He would be very humbled by the very idea of that.”
Cavazos received the Distinguished Service Cross – the second-highest military award for bravery – for repeatedly returning to the battlefield during the Korean War to save wounded men while he himself was wounded. He had already received a Silver Star for his actions earlier in the war.
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His bravery earned him additional honors during Vietnam War, including a second Distinguished Service Cross. By the end of his career, Cavazos had also received two Legions of Merit, five Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.
“There may have been a few who were more decorated than him on active duty, but I kind of doubt that,” Clark said.
Cavazos also showed extraordinary care for his men in wartime and peacetime, retired Lt. Gen. Richard Graves told Fox News.
“He was very concerned about the welfare of his soldiers,” Graves said. “It was his greatest thing.”
That compassion was mutual, according to Clark, who described the four-star general as perhaps the most “loved” military leader he had ever met.
Retired Lt. Gen. Lawson Magruder shared an anecdote in which Cavazos showed his benevolence during a nighttime exercise in 1977.
“I’m out there in the Ops Center late at night, and I’ll never forget that,” Magruder said. “Two o’clock in the morning, here is General Cavazos with his assistant. And he said, ‘Lawson, I want to go visit the companies on the line to see the soldiers. I know they work hard and dig in.'”
“And he went over there, and things weren’t going so well,” he continued. “But I have to tell you that he inspired the soldiers who were in the middle of the night to dig to respect the timeline.”
“He lifted us up at a time when he could have crushed us,” Magruder told Fox News. “But it wasn’t General Cavazos.”
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“A legend in his time”
Cavazos, born in 1929, grew up on a cattle ranch in Kingsville, Texas, less than 300 miles from Fort Hood. He earned a football scholarship to what is now Texas Tech University, but when an injury ended his career, Cavazos enrolled in the school’s ROTC program. He was commissioned into the army in 1951.
Just over two decades later, Cavazos became the Army’s first Hispanic brigadier general. He broke another barrier when he became a four-star general in 1982 – the same year he concluded a two-year term in charge of Fort Hood.
Cavazos died in 2017 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Debbie Hargett, who is director of resident services at the San Antonio Army residence community where Cavazos lived, fondly remembers the late general.
“He was absolutely adored by all the staff here and proudly told stories of his life growing up at the King Ranch with his father, who was the ranch foreman, [and] his brother, Lauro [Cavazos]who later became a member of the U.S. cabinet as secretary of education,” Hargett told Fox News. “Texas had a giant they didn’t know anything about.”
In 2021, Congress established the Naming Commission to review all military references to the Confederacy and offer name change suggestions. He identified some 1,100 references, including Fort Hood.
The post, opened in 1942, is named after John Bell Hood. The West Point alum has resigned from the American army when the Civil War broke out and, unhappy with the neutral stance of his home state of Kentucky, he declared himself a Texan.
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“He is one of the most rapidly promoted leaders in the Confederate Army, with a reputation as an aggressive, strong-willed, enthusiastic commander who often led his troops into battle,” the Naming Commission report said.
Hood eventually rose to brigadier general and was given command of the Texas Brigade, which the Texas State Historical Association calls “perhaps the finest brigade in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia”.
“While initially winning a few battlefield victories, several later battles were won and suffered heavy casualties, especially the devastating and crippling Battle of Franklin and the Battle of Nashville in late 1864”, indicates the report of the Naming Commission.
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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced on October 6 that he had approved Fort Hood to be renamed Fort Cavazos. The new name is to be finalized by January 1, 2024.
“I was not okay with changing the names,” Graves told Fox News. “But if they had to change it, they found the right person.”
“He was just a wonderful man, a great warrior,” he said. “He was a legend in his time.”