Open Letter to the Black Veterans Community: The renaming of United States Army Forts currently honoring Confederate Soldiers.

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By: Charles Blatcher, III

Chairman, National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations

For Immediate Release  

    For years, the National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations have been involved in pushing for the name changes of Army forts that recognize Confederate soldiers. It never made sense why the nation would honor those who attempted to overthrow the government of the United Stated. I do not believe it takes too much imagination to answer that question. Through correspondence to the Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, we made a case for the name change with a question: why haven’t we named a base honoring Benedict Arnold? He did nothing more egregious than the Confederate generals who are currently honored. There are no different degrees of treason. We would like to think our question and statement contributed toward the General recommending the changes.

    Black military history is the cornerstone of our claim for equal entitlement. We hope the changing of the base names represent an awakening in America. The United States Army was the first institution in America to implement integration. The coming change represents a new forward thinking. It acknowledges that the welfare, wellbeing, and survival of this nation lie in the hands of us all. This is a major step in mending racial differences. It recognizes we have all contributed to the defense of democracy and the acknowledgements are due. We commend the  Army for recognizing the need for the changes.

    Retired Navy Admiral Michelle Howard leads the eight-member body selected to undertake the renaming process. The Admiral is history in her own right. She is the first Black woman full Admiral in Naval history. Personally, I thought she would have been an excellent choice for higher office in the Biden Administration. However, we question having a Navy Admiral chairing a Commission to rename Army bases. This is like having an Air Force General selecting names for Naval vessels. Or having a Coast Guard Admiral decide the names for United States Marine Corps bases.  Obviously, this is a total break for the United States Army. Despite the talents of those selected as members of the Commission, it assumes that the Army has no retired Black Flag Officer qualified to lead the effort. Furthermore, it reflects the Army has no voice in the naming process beyond the Chief of Staff signing on to make the changes.

    The Army Regulation that designated naming consideration for only the deceased was dropped by the Commission. The Regulation identifies and limits the pool of candidates eligible for consideration. With the Regulation intact, it prevents the opportunity from becoming political therefore, damaging the outcome in the process. The Regulation would prevent this from becoming a public competition among contemporary Black Flag Officers for the honor. It is an insult to turn this into competition among the military leaders who Black veterans hold in high esteem. The lifting of the Regulation makes a host of contemporary Black Army Flag Officers eligible as candidates for the honor. Among those who would be in consideration: Lieutenant General Arthur Gregg; Lt. General Julius Becton; Lt. General Henry Doctor; Lt. General Emmett Paige; Lt. General Russel Honoré; Lt. General William Ward; General Dennis Via; General Colin Powell; General Lloyd Austin; Lt. General Darryl Williams; and Major General Marcia Anderson.

We could add another two dozen names to the list of candidates. They are all honorable exceptional Soldiers/Leaders who one could argue are worthy the recognition in their individual right. 

    With the lifting of the Army Regulation regarding the criteria for the selection process, it brings us to ask, what are the new criteria of the selection process to judge such a unique , talented, and outstanding group of distinguished military leaders? Better yet, who among us are qualified to judge their merits? Such public comparison and judgement would be an insult to the Officers and the process. Plus, we must not forget there are other ethnic groups due recognition. They are our Hispanic, Asian and Native American Brothers and Sisters. They stood up in the defense of this nation and deserve the honor of inclusion. 

    In correspondence to the Army Chief of Staff, we suggested five of the ten Bases are name to honor Black Officers. The five is not arbitrary, representing half, it is reflective of the longevity and magnitude of Black military participation over the history of the nation. Historically, we constitute the largest minority group participation in all eras with exception of the period Blacks  were restricted enlistment in the military between 1820 to 1861. We specified naming the following individuals:

Kentucky Brigadier General Charles Young; the highest-ranking Black Officer in the United States Military in the early 1900s; Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. the first Black General in the Regular Army; General Roscoe Robinson, Jr., the first Black 4 Star General in the history of the US Army; Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown, the 

first Black woman general in the US Army; and Major General Charles C. Rogers, the only Black General Officer recipient of the Medal of Honor. 

We selected the five because theirs are the shoulders that others stood upon to reach their places in military history. Our selections are within the criteria of the Army Regulation, they are all deceased. There is wisdom in selecting candidates among the deceased. It allows for a selection process leaving no hurt feeling among those not chosen for the honor. 

    I conclude offering the following remarks: This is a historical event. The nation and the Commission should treat it as such. The Commission should immediately re-institute the limited eligibility used in the Army Regulation. It would remove the impression that the outcome is political as opposed to historical by merit. The focus should be on honoring those in our Military past that paved the road to the present. Let the next generation decide who is worthy of honor among today’s contemporaries. However, there should be a role for contemporary retired and active -duty Black Flag Officers in this historic process. There should be a sub-committee of the Commission formed of retired and active-duty Black Army Generals. This sub-committee should review and pass down its selections to the Commission. It is an insult to their histories to not have a role in the process other than as contemporary competitors for the honor. 

Think About It. ####

Contact: cnmmmf@aol.com