Despite Vows to Reverse Them, Changing Base Names Has Noble Purpose

July 21, 2023
Soldiers walk past a newly unveiled sign after a redesignation ceremony officially renaming the military installation Fort Liberty

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Those who hope to become president of the United States should not play politics with the renaming of Army bases.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, hoping to wrest the GOP nomination from Donald Trump, declared at North Carolina’s Republican convention last month that if he becomes president, he’ll change the name of Fort Liberty in Fayetteville, North Carolina, back to Fort Bragg. The name became Fort Liberty June 2.

Former Vice President Mike Pence also promised the crowd that he’ll restore the Fort Bragg name.

Both men dismissed the name change at the largest U.S. military base as “political correctness.” DeSantis vowed, “We’re not gonna let political correctness run amok in North Carolina,” and Pence said he will “end the political correctness in the hallways of the Pentagon.”

DeSantis frequently criticizes the military for being “woke,” the derisive term for “politically correct” among those who claim “liberals” worry too much about social justice and offending groups of people.

As president, Trump, opposed to the Defense Department’s plans to remove names honoring the Confederacy, vetoed the defense authorization bill for 2021. Congress overrode the veto and established a commission to get the job done.

Defense leaders had already been talking about renaming bases, buildings, ships and other assets that celebrate Confederate history. After all, the Confederacy was made up of rebels who seceded from the United States to preserve slavery. Most of the Confederate leaders were traitors who fought against the U.S. military they had served.

The name changes gained momentum in 2020, when the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide demonstrations against racism. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that the Confederate names caused “divisiveness” in the military.

Milley and other leaders support the name changes not because they are “woke,” overreaching liberals, but because they want to root out racism in the ranks and build a more cohesive and effective military. They know that our all-volunteer military, like the rest of the country, has grown more diverse and accepting of differences. They want Black young service members, in particular, to feel welcome.

Many of the names honoring Confederates date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when white supremacists were idealizing the Confederacy. Fort Bragg, opened in 1918, is named for Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, a North Carolina native.

Army policy as recently as 1942, when Camp Pickett in Virginia was named for Maj. Gen. George Pickett, was to name Southern bases for Confederate commanders. But the U.S. military has been officially desegregated since 1948 — 75 years now. It’s time to leave those names behind.

Ironically, many of the honored Confederates who weren’t even good generals. Pickett is best known for the disastrous “Pickett’s charge” that led to the South’s bloody defeat at Gettysburg, a turning point in the war.

Bragg, born in North Carolina, lived on a sugar plantation in Louisiana with more than 100 slaves. He was known as a ruthless and reckless leader, cruel to his soldiers and unsuccessful in many battles.

Fort Liberty is a much more fitting name. Other bases are being renamed for noteworthy individuals, but the commission chose “Liberty” for the base at Fayetteville because liberty is “the greatest American value” and area residents in 1775 signed the Liberty Point Resolves vowing to fight Great Britain to protect freedom.

Defense and congressional leaders thought long and hard about the importance of changing the names of the bases, Navy ships and other military assets. They decided it’s worth the $65 million or so it will cost. Renaming Fort Bragg alone is estimated to cost $6.37 million.

Spending more millions to restore the Confederate names would be a huge waste of money as well as a major setback to efforts to rid the military of racism and discrimination.

No one who aspires to be our commander in chief should be campaigning to reverse the name changes and all that they mean.

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