The cultural change movement is seeking to erase our history rather than understand it and learn from it. As part of this these “progressives” have launched a full scale, frontal attack on our heritage, our history, and the traditions of the US Army. I was born at Fort Benning when my father was stationed there in the days leading up to World War II. When I was several months old, we moved to Fort Bragg from which the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to North Africa to fight Nazism and fascism. Today, we face a form of domestic intellectual and cultural warfare that is potentially more dangerous than many of the other threats that we have faced.
What do you think of when you hear the following names: Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia; Fort Rucker in Alabama, and Fort Hood in Texas? For this old soldier, I think of National Guard and reserve training centers, a national training center, the Army Signal Center, the home of the 18th Airborne Corps, birthplace, Airborne and Ranger school, the Army Logistics Center, the Army Aviation Center, an armored corps, etc.
It would be interesting to poll past and present members of the US Army and to ask them if they ever even thought about the source of the name of the fort or camp where they were stationed or training. I, for one, did not. I related a specific fort to the activities on that fort and the units traditionally stationed there. Allegiance was not to a fort but the unit I was assigned to.
On the other side of the equation are those who point at the individual Confederate generals for whom these ten forts and camps in the south are named. Some argue that each of these generals was a traitor, an incompetent, and a slaveholder. Their treachery is a fact, but in many cases, their military genius is widely studied to this day. We should have this debate, but a wholesale rewriting of history to serve political or pseudo-cultural ends is dangerous and decidedly un-American. In the current zeitgeist, not only do these former generals come up for attack, but in recent days mobs have defaced memorials honoring Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator himself, and abolitionist Matthias Baldwin. So let us have a debate, but never give in to the mob.
This is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. I was in high school when the National Guard was called in to enforce the Supreme Court’s Brown decision to end segregated schools. I was a cadet and young officer when the Army again acted to put down riots in the late 1960s. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson were all correct in using military power to enforce civil rights and protect civilians and property. Similarly, President George H.W. Bush was right to use troops to end the riots in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King. Today, when politics and ideology seem to trump nearly all other considerations, support for ending riots and looting appears to require you first declare your political allegiance to the movement that is creating this grief.
I urge our elected and appointed leaders to resist the temptation to give in to the loudest, angriest elements of the citizenry. The evils of slavery, segregation, and racism constitute the original sin of America. The US Army, from the freedman and former slaves who fought on the side of the Union to the Buffalo Soldiers and the Nisei, have time and again showed that the brotherhood of soldiers is larger and more open-minded than any college campus. There is much to be proud of in our history. Erasing the ugly parts will do nothing to solve the challenges ahead of us as a military and as a country.