Last week, after a meeting in Milwaukee, the national council of the League of United Latin American Citizens passed a resolution calling for Fort Hood, the nation’s largest active-duty armored base, to be renamed Fort Benavidez.
Members of the civil rights organization said that the measure was inspired in part by a Texas Monthly article published last month that detailed the case for the change. Master Sergeant Raul Perez “Roy” Benavidez was a native Texan and Medal of Honor recipient whose official citation stands out as exceedingly courageous even among that valorous legion. His astounding military feats are well documented, including here, and here, and in graphic novel form here. In contrast, the fort’s namesake, John Bell Hood, was a Confederate general who took up arms to defend the institution of slavery.
LULAC’s Jorge Haynes, an Air Force veteran and Laredo native, said it’s high time the military better recognize the contributions of soldiers, airmen, sailors, Coasties, and Marines of non-WASP heritage. “The idea is to start a conversation which can lead to a process that would enable us to honor heroes like [Benavidez] and General Richard Cavazos, two great Texans,” he said.
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Those two would just be the beginning. He’d like the U.S. to consider the merits of many others as well, including the Tuskegee Airmen; the Buffalo Soldiers; the 442nd Combat Regiment (Japanese Americans who avoided internment during World War II by fighting the Nazis); General Colin Powell; Captain Manuel Fernandez Jr, who once shot down five planes in a single day; and Guy Gabaldon, a Marine from East L.A. “who captured more enemy soldiers than anyone in military history.”
Going all the way back to Juan Seguin, there have been men and women of every ethnicity from Texas who have fought bravely for the American flag. Which makes it all the more peculiar that our state’s principal army installation is named after a non-Texan who fought against the Stars and Stripes.
Haynes acknowledges that this process might take years to bear fruit, if it ever does, but that the push to bring greater attention to heroes like Benavidez is worthy, regardless. LULAC is forwarding copies of its resolution to Congress, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American GI Forum, in hopes of garnering even greater support to call upon Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to finally bestow this high honor on a true Texas hero.