By EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON
U.S. House of Representatives
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021. NDAA is an annual bill that authorizes the funding for our national defense strategy. Included in this year’s NDAA is an amendment, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Anthony Brown, MD-04, in their respective chambers, that establishes a commission to rename military installations that honor confederate officials.
The Congressional Black Caucus played a critical role in ushering the amendment through the House, Senate, and conference committee deliberations to be included in the final bill. In one of the most significant steps towards inclusivity that the military has taken, the CBC finds itself once again at the heart of an effort towards achieving racial equity.
One such installation – set to be renamed – is right here in Texas – Fort Hood, which bears the name of confederate General John Bell Hood. Fortunately, we do not have to look too far when it comes to replacement names. Texas is unique in that it boasts an extraordinary number of heroes of color who called our state home. One such example would be Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller, was born and raised in my hometown of Waco. Cook First Class Miller was a WWII veteran whose heroic instincts at Pearl Harbor earned him the Navy Cross and helped to save hundreds of lives aboard the West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941.
Another illustration of bravery came from Messman First Class Leonard Roy Harmon, who resided in Cuero, Texas – geographically situated between Austin and San Antonio, was a WWII veteran, Navy Cross recipient, and the first Black man to have a warship named in his honor, the USS Harmon. These two men, along with the countless others not listed, would be excellent namesakes for military installations and would reflect the increasing diversity of our armed forces.
Though the president has repeatedly expressed his intent to veto the legislation because of this amendment, I am proud that Congress will pass the NDAA with a veto-proof majority and that these bases will forevermore appropriately memorialize the contributions made by people of color.
While the effects of renaming these installations may be beyond our vision, they certainly are not beyond our control.
U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.