It is not so much the name of a fort or base as it is the place of honor where so many veterans served and either later died in battle, or the place that holds special meaning as it does to me. The survivors of those who went before such as the 82nd Airborne and many other famous units would call Fort Bragg, N.C., hallowed ground. It dishonors them to change the name to something it never was and has no meaning. I did my basic training there in May and June 1967 and although I’ve never been back, I could, unlike so many others who trained there over the last 102 years. I want to keep the names of all of our military installations as they are, irrespective for whom they are named. It is reference point for active duty and veterans including me and has nothing to do with the issues of today.
My story goes like this. I had a very hard time in basic training, only to be saved from being recycled (a kiss worse than death) to start over. One of my Black drill sergeants was a giant of a man named SSG Crawford. He came to see me in the hospital and said, “Gray, I can help you get in shape to finish and graduate with your platoon and company.” Through his individual attention and the physical condition he helped me achieve in the red dirt of North Carolina, I graduated. I have never forgotten the influence he had on me and even though he was not my friend, I have considered him a mentor because I cannot forget him or his not-so-nice partner Sgt. Sheffield, who I respected but did not like. Then I went to Fort Polk, La., for advanced infantry training where the influence of SSG Crawford turned me into a soldier.
Surviving family members of all who have gone on before, the vets, the hundreds of thousands of buried heroes who defended us for all these years, those who defeated tyranny and fascism, would have something to say about this issue now. They speak from their graves: “Please don’t try rewriting our history.” I encourage everyone who serves or has served to demand the powers that be shelve this needless and insulting exercise. It is exactly the same thing as desecrating our statues and has no place in the lexicon of our collective American history.