Army about-face: Open to renaming forts to remove Confederates
The U.S. Army has indicated that it is open to “bi-partisan” discussions about renaming military forts that are currently named after Confederate generals. The issue has become part of the debate surrounding the racial divide sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“The Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Army are open to a bi-partisan discussion on the topic,” Army spokesperson Col. Sunset Belinsky said in a statement Monday according to Politico.
The Army has been under increasing pressure to rename forts and remove statutes that acknowledge anyone that was associated with the Confederacy. The Marines previously banned the use of the Confederate flag on bases.
“This symbol has shown it has the power to inflame feelings of division,” Gen. David Berger, the Marine Commandant, wrote in an April letter to Marines, says Stars and Stripes. “I cannot have that division inside our Corps.”
The Army has 10 military bases named after Confederate generals, some of whom were also associated with the U.S. Army previous to Confederate service.
For example, Robert E. Lee was a prominent graduate of West Point and later a commandant at the military academy in New York. In addition to Fort Lee being named after him, a barracks at West Point is named after Lee.
Previously, the Army resisted the idea of renaming the forts. The forts were named in a spirit of reconciliation with the South after the Civil War, and “not to demonstrate support for any particular cause or ideology.”
The Army Times reports that one idea in renaming the forts is to name them after Medal-of-Honor winners.
“It’s not about negating the past,” Mike Jason, a retired Army colonel to the Army Times. “We’re an evolved and inclusive military now and we have a lot of new heroes who deserve to have their names emboldened in history.”
However, the military tends to be wedded to the traditions of the past, and change never comes easily.
But the Army is not unaffected by the turmoil affecting the rest of the country.
“Over the past week, the country has suffered an explosion of frustration over the racial divisions that still plague us as Americans. And because your Army is a reflection of American society, those divisions live in the Army as well,” wrote Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston.
“We feel the frustration and anger.”
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