As a veteran of several military bases, I would vote to change the names of all the facilities named for generals who fought for the Confederate army during our nation’s Civil War.
I offer such action with a heavy heart because of the link I still have with the facilities that helped to create the soldier I had become and the lessons learned in the US Army.
But we could easily find replacements from a list of generals or other military personnel that never fought against America but tried to uphold its promise to all the people, for the people, and of the people.
What’s wrong with Fort Dwight D Eisenhower? How about Fort Douglass McArthur? Eisenhower was the commander of the Allied Forces that defeated the Nazis and McArthur fought in both World War II and the Korean War. So what if President Truman relieved him of his command for disobeying an order. We’re talking about generals here not politicians!
And to bring it more up-to-date let’s name a base for General William Westmoreland. “Westy” as his troops called him, took part in fighting back the Tet Offensive of Vietnam in 1968. Politics lead to his removal shortly afterward but he served as chief of staff of the Army later. I also met his daughter while meditating at a Buddhist retreat with a monk from Vietnam who’s name is Thich Nhat Hahn.
The meanest drill sergeant I ever met had it in for me when he learned I signed up for OCS (Officers Candidate School). He wanted to ensure I could take the heat and ordered me to “drop down and give me 20 . . .” (20 push-ups) about 20,000 times at Fort Bragg.
But Fort Benning will always be my favorite despite a name change. It is where I was commissioned as an officer after six months of rigorous training just like in the movie with Richard Gear, “An Officer and a Gentleman.” It was also where I “earned my wings” in Jump School and became a paratrooper with five “cherry Jumps.”
I still remember the song we candidates sang about Fort Benning. The words will be forever emblazoned in my heart:
“Far across the Chattahoochee. To the Upatoi. Stands our loyal Alma Mater. Benning’s School for boys. Forward ever. Backward never. Faithfully we strive. Toward our final destination. Follow me with pride. When it’s time and we are called. To guard our country’s might. We’ll be there with head held high. To lead in Freedom’s fight. Yearning ever. Failing never. To keep our country free. The call is clear. We meet the task. For we are infantry.”