A commission to rename military installations named after Confederate soldiers was at Fort Hood on Wednesday to gather information on what the parameters should be when making recommendations for what the new names will be, however, the series of meetings was closed to the public and media outlets, Army officials said.
An Army spokeswoman said the commission met with III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Pat White about the renaming process, and to identify what, if any, other names on Fort Hood could change.
Wednesday’s series of meetings included one in which community leaders were invited, including Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra.
He said he was relieved that community leaders were invited.
“That eliminates that concern I had,” Segarra said Wednesday in a phone interview. “My concern was that they were not going to engage with with the community — (like) it was going to come from the top, and they were going to make a decision.”
Segarra said he told the committee that he hopes it continues the conversation with community leaders. He said the chair of the committee said it would.
He added that he hopes the decision for the new name will include input from all local communities.
“I just want to make sure that we, as a community, have some input on that,” Segarra said. “... As long as it’s something that we were able, as a community, to be part of that process; and that’s all we’re asking for.”
Renaming will include not only the names of Army forts named after Confederates, but buildings, streets and anything else such as training areas named after Confederate soldiers or the Confederacy. Only individual grave markers are to be left alone.
U.S. Congress forced Fort Hood, and all other installations named after Confederate leaders or soldiers, to change their names when both chambers overrode a veto by President Donald Trump and passed the National Defense Authorization Act. The House overrode Trump’s veto on Dec. 28, 2020, and the Senate overrode it on Jan. 1.
On Wednesday, the naming commission had a tour of Fort Hood along with a series of meetings on post, including with “members of the local community to identify local sesitvities,” according to an Army public affairs official working with the commission.
When asked why the meetings were not open to the public or the media, she replied: “I don’t have the answer to that question.”
She also said she did not have a list available of the “members of the local community” who were invited to the closed meeting.
However, among those who did attend were members of the local and national chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens, an Hispanic civil rights group.
LULAC was invited to the meetings as part of a group of civic leaders that also included area mayors, area county judges, officials from area chambers of commerce and other community organizations.
“I think it’s time we look at it objectively and we consider the options,” said Domingo Garcia, national president of LULAC, which held a news conference in Killeen following the meeting. “And we are working with the local community ... to find a concensus candidate that we all can vote for.”
Master Sgt. Roy Benavides and Gen. Richard Cavazos, who were both from Texas, are two names LULAC want to see Fort Hood named after.
Benavides was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Vietnam by President Ronald Reagan.
Cavazos, the first Hispanic four-star general in the Army’s history, was a former III Corps and Fort Hood commander. He also received two Distinguished Service Crosses — one for actions in the Korean War and one for actions in the Vietnam War.
AnaLuisa Tapia, a Killeen area resident and director of District 17 of LULAC in Texas — which includes all local branches — said she believes soldiers would admire those the likes of Benavides or Cavazos.
“When you talk about the core values, they exemplify every single one of those core values — selfless service, loyalty,” Tapia said.
Tapia said Benavides and Cavazos have “no skeletons in their closet” and served their country honorably and loyally.
“We are looking for diversity,” Tapia added.
Keith Sledd, the executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, told the Copperas Cove City Council on Tuesday that he and HOTDA hosted the same community leaders twice two weeks ago to discuss the criteria for choosing a name.
“We took the results of those two meetings and shared them with Fort Hood,” Sledd said. “It was interesting — a lot of good discussion, a lot of good thoughts. And that will be used by Fort Hood to engage the renaming commission.”
Garcia said changing the name of Fort Hood will not change the post’s legacy or the legacy that the units have made.
III Corps officials said Monday that the commission that was visiting Fort Hood was also there to discuss criteria people to name the post after.
“The commission is only working on what those parameters should include right now, such as whether or not the person must be a decorated war hero or not, what level of award that soldier was awarded to be considered for what is being renamed and such,” the spokesman said in a statement. “They have until October to report their recommendations to Congress. Once Congress approves those parameters, they will have until October 2022 to bring Congress the recommendations of actual names. The commission will be back again to consult with post leadership and the surrounding communities at that time to get final suggestions of who qualifies.”
Tapia said she hopes that if either Benavides or Cavazos are selected to be the new name of Fort Hood, the other one is selected by another post.
She said she believes they are soldiers that others can be proud of their values and their service.
The commission arrived at Fort Hood on Tuesday, and is slated to leave today, Army officials said.