Army Renames Its Largest Base ‘Fort Liberty’ In Bid To Scrub Confederate Legacy

(Photo by ALLISON JOYCE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Army’s Fort Bragg became Fort Liberty on Friday as the Army rounds the corner on a multi-million dollar undertaking to scrub names that appear to commemorate the Confederacy from military bases.

Bragg, home to both Army Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne Division, is the only base to be renamed after a concept instead of a person, based on a list of the nine bases the Department of Defense (DOD) released in January. The Commission had recommended naming Fort Bragg for Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez, an Army Green Beret of Hispanic descent who received a Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam, but Army politics may have prevented a consensus, Defense One reported, citing a source familiar with the deliberations.

“Liberty is about changing the narrative a bit about who we are, but it is not about forgetting who we are or what we’ve done,” Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. John Wilcox told CNN. (RELATED: Naval Academy Removes Confederate Name From Campus Building, Replaces It With Dem President)

“We understand the original name’s prestige in the eyes of some of the Soldiers, Families, and our nation, was built upon the bravery and dedication of those who served here, not because of an obscure, incompetent, ill-tempered confederate general’s legacy. Nevertheless, our nation’s representatives felt a need to move on from that name and put the redesignation into law, and we are abiding by that law,” the Army stated in a release on the renaming.

Braxton Bragg, Fort Liberty’s former namesake, was an artillery officer in the Mexican-American War and a Confederate general during the Civil War, according to CNN. He earned a reputation as a hot-tempered, irritable and contentious commander with little battlefield acumen, earning the nickname “bumbler,” according to RAND researcher Kayla Williams.

After Fort Bragg’s redesignation, only Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Gordon and Fort Polk remain as bases named after Confederates, according to Defense One. The total cost of renaming all bases is expected to reach $39 million.

Congress’ Naming Commission solicited feedback from base officials, interest groups and the local population on renaming each of the bases, but ultimately decided against selecting an individual to represent the Army’s most populated base.

Leaders of both Special Forces and 82nd Airborne units disliked the idea of renaming the base after Benavidez, according to Defense One.

“There was some identity politics at work where the Special Forces community didn’t want an airborne guy and the airborne community didn’t want a Special Forces guy,” the source reportedly told Defense One.

“After review of all the submissions, the commission felt no single individual could capture and encompass the scope and spirit of the installation,” the Army stated in a release on the renaming.

Military members and veterans aired mixed opinions on the new name, according to local news outlet ABC11.

Patriot Foundation president Karen Gilley said she softened to the idea of renaming the base after the founding American value after hearing a mother’s testimony to installation leadership, ABC11 reported.

“A Gold Star mother stood up in the back of the room and said, ‘My son did not live and fight and die for a man’s name. He fought and died for liberty,'” Gilley told the outlet.

“And I, too, felt like gosh, isn’t that the truth?” she added.

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