Renaming Military Installations Erases More Than Just History, But Also Identity

We all witnessed the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and subsequent summer riots in the name of social justice that ravaged our cities.

Monuments were graffitied, torn down, and buildings were renamed. No one from history has been exempt from this treatment, including our Founding Fathers. Their contributions to our country have often been whittled down to being ‘enslavers’ and nothing more.

But it’s not just public education, the parks and recreation department, and the homes of Founding Fathers that have seen a makeover. Numerous Army installations and other military buildings are about to get a historic makeover.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has approved recommendations from the Naming Commission established by Congress last year to review military components named for Confederate soldiers. So let’s examine how some of the most famous military installations will change.

Changing The Names of Military Installations

The commission listed nine bases for renaming:

  • Fort Polk, Louisiana, changed to Fort Johnson
  • Fort Benning, Georgia, changed to Fort Moore
  • Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, changed to Fort Walker
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina, changed to Fort Liberty
  • Fort Gordon, Georgia, changed to Fort Eisenhower
  • Fort Hood, Texas, changed to Fort Cavazos
  • Fort Lee, Virginia, changed to Fort Gregg-Adams
  • Fort Pickett, Virginia, changed to Fort Barfoot
  • Fort Rucker, Alabama, changed to Fort Novosel

These changes are set to take effect by at least 2024 and are estimated to cost the Pentagon $62.5 million. Secretary Austin said of the new names:

“The commission has chosen names that echo with honor, patriotism, and history – names that will inspire generations of service members to defend our democracy and our Constitution.”

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A Culture Not Well Understood

I was stationed at Pope Army Air Field in North Carolina. Known as ‘No Hope Pope’ in a tongue-in-cheek way, the often-forgotten Air Force installation is located on Fort Bragg in North Carolina. When I would tell people I was stationed at Pope, usually, I’d get a blank stare or the response, “I thought they closed that base?”

But if I told people I was stationed at an Air Force unit on Bragg, everyone knew what and where I was talking about. That’s because Army installations have a name recognition that transcends time, differences, and even military affiliation.

Bragg is the home of the 82nd Airborne and Army Special Forces. The 82nd calls Bragg home, and they jump out of perfectly good aircraft to rain freedom down on our enemies and provide aid to our friends. 

The same can be said of Fort Gordon, known as the home of the Signal Corps, and Polk, where the best our nation has to offer go to get combat trained before taking the fight to the bad guys overseas. What point am I trying to make, you might ask?

Most who wear the uniform don’t associate these locations with the Confederacy; they associate them with the excellent work that the men and women who live, train, and work at these installations execute.

The connection transcends generations as well; an old Airborne veteran can instantly relate to a Gen-Z Airborne soldier once they utter the word Bragg.

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Misplaced Priorities

However, you could argue that at least one of these installations is well known for less-than-patriotic history and that it has nothing to do with the Confederacy.

Suppose you mention Fort Hood to anyone who has served in the last few years. In that case, you’ll often hear more about the rampant sexual abuse and violence that has plagued the installation versus its cavalry past.

Former home of Vanessa Guillen, who was found murdered, and investigations revealed she had been a victim of sexual assault that her leadership ignored, many would argue that a name change won’t be enough to fix what ails that installation.

Secretary Austin rightly explained:

“The installations and facilities that our Department operates are more than vital National Security assets. They are also powerful public symbols of our military, and of course, they are the places where our service members and their families work and live.”

Pope was known as No Hope Pope mainly due to the dilapidated state of Fort Bragg, where the unit was housed. Grass grew over your knees, rodents often retained residency in office buildings, the daycare centers were plagued with controversy, and the dorms were structurally unstable.

Seriously I know; I had an Airman have the ceiling in their dorm room cave in on them three times. Perhaps that $62.5 million would be better spent making the places where our service members and families work and live…you know…workable and livable.

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Goodbye Lee?

This same commission also recommended removing depictions of Robert E. Lee from West Point, who was the academy’s Superintendent before the Civil War. He’s most famously known as the General who went toe to toe with General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War. 

The report from the commission said their recommendations:

“The commissioners do not make these recommendations with any intention of ‘erasing history.'”

Interestingly, General Lee was not a fan of erecting monuments to the Confederacy post-war. He believed that it would be easier for the nation to heal. While, like many men in that era, he was a slave owner, he thought it was a moral and political sin and celebrated the abolition of slavery. 

The report went on to state:

“The facts of the past remain and the commissioners are confident the history of the Civil War will continue to be taught at all service academies with all the quality and complex detail our national past deserves.”

Now West Point cadets are learning about “whiteness” and “race privilege” – is that what the commission meant when they referred to quality and complex detail? 

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Lessons Left To Learn

The rub with history is that it is both enlightening and complicated. And we seem to be always doomed to repeat it. 

General Lee once said:

“What a cruel thing war is…to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors.”

Will changing the names of these installations make us hate each other less? I don’t think so. 

The new names are reasonable, no doubt. Fort Polk, soon to be named Fort Johnson, will be named after Sgt. William Johnson, a black Medal of Honor recipient hero from World War I. Fort Benning, soon to be called Fort Moore, will be named for Lt. General Hal Moore, the famous cavalry officer from “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young,” which became the popular movie We Were Soldiers.

And Fort A.P. Hill, soon to be Fort Walker, is named after Dr. Mary Walker, the only female Medal of Honor recipient and former Civil War Prisoner of War. Heroes, each of them worthy of such an honor.

I just wish we would focus on honoring the men and women serving now with livable housing, adequate medical care, deserving salaries, and relevant training to help them win our future wars. 

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Kathleen J. Anderson

USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts Saint and Artist husband. Writer, lifelong conservative, lover of all things American History, and not-so-secret Ancient Aliens fanatic. Homeschool maven, Masters in Political Management, constitutionalist, and chock full of opinions.

View Comments

  • Any moderators at Political Insider ?

    I'll come back here one more time, and if I see these "$10,000 a$$holes working from computers," I'm not coming back.

    • Absolutely. Unfortunately, the bots are faster than us humans and at it 24/7. We keep bolstering our filters and bulk spamming them but the a$$holes just keeping getting through. Rest assured we're blocking as soon as we find them!

  • Who cares how much money you say you make. Are you sharing with unfortunate people are bragging and spending it on

  • Saying you were stationed at Fort Bragg carries a special caveat. It is the home to Special Forces, the 82nd and the 18th Airborne Corps. 'Fort Bragg' will forever be remembered as the home of the very best the US has to offer.

  • After TEXIT , the old and honored names will be restored. And General Lee's will be added appropriately.

  • The left joins ISIS and the Taliban, they all topple statues, sterilizing culture, traditions and history.

  • the problem is that the only generals with any military spirit and soldierly daring were all southern generals........the northern bluebellies had more guns and more soldiers and more food and real uniforms and an infinite number of horses and trains and cannon balls and gunpowder

    but the southern generals had balz the size of brass pumpkins and most of them stood like Leonidas against Xerxes....and their memory will live forever long after the story of union general smaltitz has disappeared into oblivion.

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