High-ranking officials at the Pentagon are now warm to a discussion about renaming U.S. military bases and installations which are named after confederate military fighters.
Amid the nation’s civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in the custody of police in Minneapolis in May, demands to remove or rename monuments, symbols and places which honor Confederate leaders from the American Civil War have grown louder.
According to multiple reports, conversations are being held among the military’s top officials about what to do with bases that bear the name of Confederate fighters.
An anonymous senior official in the U.S. Army told Fox News that the country’s military leadership is closely monitoring national sentiment against honoring Confederate military commanders and might adopt a new policy after years of avoiding the topic.
“We must recognize history is important, but we must come together and have some sort of open discussion about race,” the official explained.
“This week highlighted the need to start understanding those feelings and the Army secretary is open to considering changing the names of these bases named for Confederate generals.”
Politico also cited an anonymous Army official who said that recent events “made us start looking more at ourselves and the things that we do and how that is communicated to the force as well as the American public.”
According to Politico, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy are also both in support of a bipartisan discussion on the matter.
In a statement, the Army confirmed to CNN on Monday that Esper and McCarthy are open to discussion, but added that “each Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a significant place in our military history” and “the historic names represent individuals, not causes.”
Secretary McCarthy was among other U.S. Army leaders to comment on the country’s civil unrest in a letter last week to soldiers, veterans, their families and civilians.
“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,” the letter stated.
The letter also asked service members to have discussions with one another on the topic of racial division.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, tweeted last week that his branch is also monitoring the national discussion.
Current events are a stark reminder that we must strive to eliminate division. The trust we place in one another on a daily basis demands this. By listening, we learn, by learning, we change. https://t.co/unegaPEtGn
— David H. Berger (@CMC_MarineCorps) June 4, 2020
“Current events are a stark reminder that we must strive to eliminate division. The trust we place in one another on a daily basis demands this. By listening, we learn, by learning, we change,” Berger tweeted.
In a Marine Corps blog post, the general said he decided to remove Confederate battle flags from bases in April, but explained that the move was not enough to mend an apparent racial divide among Marines.
“Marines and Sailors, last summer, in my planning guidance, I stated there is no place in our Corps for racists – whether their intolerance and prejudice be direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional.
“As a continuation of that declaration, in April, I addressed the removal of the Confederate battle flag from our bases, and explained my views behind that decision. I wrote, ‘Anything that divides us, anything that threatens team cohesion, must be addressed head-on,’” he wrote.
“Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division – rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself,” the general added.
Berger concluded by asking servicemen and women to engage each other in conversation and to “actively listen.”
There are currently 10 U.S. military facilities named after Confederate leaders:
Fort Rucker in Alabama; Forts Benning and Gordon in Georgia; Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Hood in Texas; and Forts Pickett, A.P. Hill, and Lee in Virginia.
The military has previously avoided the topic of renaming the installations.
Business Insider reported that in 2015, Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost stated that bases were named to honor soldiers throughout the country’s history, and were not an endorsement of their ideology.
“Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history,” Frost said at the time in a statement echoed this week by the Army. “Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies.”
Frost added that the bases were also named in the spirit of “reconciliation, not division.”
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