A House lawmaker is urging the commission tasked with scrubbing Confederate names from U.S. military bases to rename Fort Benning for Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe.
In a letter Wednesday to what's being informally called the Naming Commission, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., argued that naming the Georgia base after Cashe would "'appropriately reflect the courage, values and sacrifices' of the U.S. military," quoting the commission's criteria for choosing new names.
"SFC Cashe is a legend in military circles, beloved in life and revered in death, a hero in the purest sense of the term," she wrote. "I believe he would be an honorable and unifying choice, and hope you will consider recommending him in your report to Congress."
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In 2020, Congress created the Naming Commission to rename military bases and other Defense Department property with Confederate namesakes amid a nationwide reckoning over race and the legacy of slavery after the police killing of George Floyd.
The commission's initial focus has been on nine Army bases with Confederate names: Forts Lee, Hood, Benning, Gordon, Bragg, Polk, Pickett, A.P. Hill and Rucker.
Fort Benning was named in 1922 after Confederate Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning, who was a leader of Georgia's secessionist movement.
Late last year, Cashe became the first Black service member from the post-9/11 wars to receive the Medal of Honor after years of campaigning by family members and lawmakers, including Murphy.
Cashe died in 2005 after the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was commanding in Iraq was struck by an improvised explosive device. He pulled the driver out of the vehicle despite his own uniform being soaked in fuel. While he was rescuing the driver, Cashe's uniform caught fire, causing burns over most of his body, but he still went back to save another six soldiers from the vehicle.
Cashe's connections to Fort Benning include serving as a drill sergeant and a platoon sergeant there.
Murphy is the latest lawmaker to lobby the Naming Commission.
Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., and members of the Congressional Black Caucus in October asked for Fort Lee, Virginia, to be renamed in honor of Lt. Gen. Arthur J. Gregg, an Army logistician who rose from private to become one of the most highly decorated Black officers in the military.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have also called for naming Fort Hood, Texas, after Gen. Richard E. Cavazos, the first Mexican American four-star general. The caucus had previously suggested Fort Hood be named for Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez, a Texas native who received the Medal of Honor for valor in the Vietnam War, but in an August letter said Benavidez's background in Special Forces makes him a better fit to be the namesake for Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The commission also solicited names from the public online. Retired Adm. Michelle Howard, the chair of the commission, said in October that the panel had received thousands of suggestions.
The commission's final report is due to Congress this coming October, and the Pentagon must implement its recommendations by Jan. 1, 2024.
-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.
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