US Army
Fort Cavazos is home to the 1st Cavalry Division and other divisions and commands. Representation image. PeopleImages/Gettyimages

After over eight decades, the name of Fort Hood, Texas, was changed to Fort Cavazos on Tuesday in honor of Gen. Richard Cavazos, a heroic war veteran born in Texas who served as the first Latino four-star general and the first Latino brigadier general.

"There is no better namesake for our installation than Richard E. Cavazos," said Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commanding general of the III Armored Corps, headquartered at Fort Cavazos.

"Let his name and all that he represents inspire us all every single day to live up to his legacy as a warrior, as a soldier's soldier, as a master trainer, as a military innovator, as a coach and mentor and as a humble servant leader," said Bernabe in his remarks during the ceremony.

For commanding "The Borinqueneers," a segregated unit made up of Puerto Rican soldiers during the Korean War, Cavazos would get a Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross.

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the unit, officially known as E Company, 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment, in 2014.

As the commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment in 1967, Cavazos also saw action in Vietnam and was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross.

"This is the first prominent military base that receives a renaming for a Latino. I believe that sends a powerful message that this will be a continuation of other naming opportunities for other Latinos," Ramiro Cavazos, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told NBC News.

Ramiro Cavazos, whose father was a first cousin to the late four-star general, attended the renaming ceremony Tuesday.

"This is a true hero that fought in the Korean conflict, in Vietnam, that everyone can point to and say, that's a worthy hero," Cavazos said.

President of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, the country's first Latino civil rights organization, Domingo Garcia also attended the ceremony.

General Cavazos was referred to by Garcia as a "true American hero" and "a true Texan who served his country."

"Just because your last name is Garcia, Lopez, Rodriguez or Cavazos, it doesn't mean that you will just be another cog in the system but actually that your contributions will be accepted and honored," Young Latinos and Latinas serving in the army can draw lessons from the precedent set by Cavazos, Garcia said.

The remains of Latina soldier Vanessa Guillén were discovered at Fort Cavazos in 2020, more than two months after she went missing.

Her disappearance sparked requests for an investigation from her family, Latino leaders, and even celebrities, and it attracted national attention.

When police arrived at the base to make an arrest in connection with the case, a soldier there reportedly shot and killed himself.

Guillén had reported sexual harassment, but nothing was done about it; her passing prompted changes to various military policies, notably the sexual harassment and prevention program for the Army.

"We're building momentum and changing the name of the base hopefully will send a message that the culture needs to change too," Ramiro Cavazos said.

This year, renamings are planned for eight additional bases having names associated with the Confederacy.

These include Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which will be renamed Fort Liberty; Fort AP Hill, Virginia, which will be renamed Fort Walker in honor of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War; and Fort Polk, Louisiana, which will be renamed Fort Johnson in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a member of the Harlem Hellfighters in World War I received the Medal of Honor after the fact.

The Department of Defense is also renaming military roads and structures that were formerly given names honoring the Confederacy or individuals who fought for the Confederate States of America.

Additionally, two cruisers are getting new names, and any battle streamers that pay homage to Confederate service are outlawed.

The 1st Cavalry Division, along with other commands and divisions, is located at Fort Cavazos.

The facility, which also serves as a training and mobilization hub for the National Guard and the U.S. Reserve, is home to more than 34,500 military soldiers and 48,500 family members.

According to a statement from the base, it employs over 4,000 people.

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