JUNE 3, 2023 – Hundreds of veterans, dignitaries, and military Family members joined at the Main Post Flagpole to witness Fort Bragg’s historic redesignation to Fort Liberty at 9 a.m. June 2.
The Defense Department last year approved proposals to remove the names of Confederate officers from nine military bases, including Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. Retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, who chaired the Naming Commission, said that “the people who fought for the Confederacy were traitors—they waged war against the United States—so those names should be removed or replaced with people who have remained faithful to the United States.”
The attendees watched intently as the ceremony started off with a six-man color guard from the 27th Engineer Battalion standing before the Main Post Flagpole. Then, after welcoming remarks, the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, fired an official 15-round salute. The resounding booms of the howitzers echoed across the field.
Then without missing a beat, the 82nd Airborne Division Band began playing the National Anthem. The sounds of the anthem filled the air while the attendees stood at attention or placed their right hands on their hearts. As the anthem concluded, the XVIII Airborne Corps Chaplain, Col. Brian Koyn, stepped forward to deliver the invocation.
“We are grateful for the warriors, Families, leaders and friends gathered here who together are the Vanguard of Liberty, along with those who have served here throughout the years,” said Koyn. “It is these amazing people who are the reason why this post holds such a special place in our hearts.”
Then, for the final time, Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, XVIII Airborne Corps Commanding General, Command Sgt. Maj. TJ Holland, XVIII Airborne Corps Command Sergeant Major, Col. John Wilcox, installation Garrison Commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Seymour, installation Command Sergeant Major, stepped forward to conduct the official casing of the Fort Bragg Garrison Colors.
“The very heart of a unit is symbolized by the colors under which the troops serve,” narrated Michael Dooley, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security operations center supervisor. “The colors stand as a silent reminder of the past glories and traditions, lend inspiration for present endeavors, and shine like a guiding beacon into the future.”
The color guard presented arms at these words while the command team worked furled and cased the Fort Bragg Colors. They then passed the flag to a color guard member who marched off for the final time with the cased Fort Bragg Colors. At the same time, a separate color guard member marched the Fort Liberty Colors to the command team.
“Just like the casing, the uncasing ceremony is a simple event, rich with traditions and heritage,” continued Dooley. “It defines a point in time to commemorate the beginning or continuation of a unit’s history along with the lineage by carrying on the finest of traditions of the United States Army.”
The color guard once again presented arms to the command team, who removed the casing and unfurled the Fort Liberty Colors, officially redesignating the installation.
“Welcome to Fort Liberty, the center of the universe,” began Donahue. “The United States of America’s strategic platform to respond to anything, anywhere in the world to ensure the liberty of all our fellow citizens. As you look around this group, across this installation, this community, you will know that we are ready to ensure liberty for all our citizens anywhere.”
“We were given a mission to redesignate our installation, no small task with its history,” continued Donahue. “We seized this opportunity to make ourselves better and to seek excellence. That is what we always have done and always will do.”
He described how a diverse selection of community members, headed by Retired Gen. Daniel McNeil, sought input from across the community to gain the broadest perspectives. The committee considered every proposal, dismissing nothing.
Medal of Honor Recipients, distinguished leaders from the installation’s units, national leaders, and native nations with ties to North Carolina were all discussed and considered.
“A consensus could not be reached on just one,” said Donahue. “How could you choose any and leave any of those others behind? There was no right name. There were no names that could define what this post is all about.”
He described how amid all these debates, one of our Gold Star Mothers, Patti Elliott, stepped forward and challenged everybody to think bigger and better. And how her son died for Liberty.
“This post is more than a name,” continued Donahue. “Liberty is in the fabric and identity of all of our units. And you’ll find liberty etched in the hearts of everyone who’s probably given their lives from this installation.”
The attendees listened as Donahue informed them about the Sunset Liberty March, which started the night prior. The march honors the legacy of liberty built by the many men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and honors veterans, past, present, and future.
“It is my honor and privilege to welcome you to Fort Liberty, the center of the universe,” said Donahue. “Our Nation’s first call when liberty needs defending. Thank you all for being here today. Airborne all the way. Liberty for all.”
At the end of Donahue’s remarks, the attendees erupted into applause, and the 82nd Airborne Division Band launched into the “XVIII Airborne Corps March” and the “Army Song.” And, as always, the crowd sang heartily along.
Story by Jacqueline Hill
Fort Liberty Garrison Public Affairs Office