Now that Congress has passed the defense bill that calls for renaming those military bases named for Confederates, Louisiana should take the lead in choosing a new name for Fort Polk.
The fort is currently named for Confederate Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk. A slaveowner who graduated from West Point in 1827, he left the U.S. Army to become the first Protestant Episcopal bishop of Louisiana. When the Civil War began, he was named a general in the Confederate Army. Lacking combat experience, he served without distinction until killed in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.
Louisiana has numerous military heroes for whom the fort should now be named.
One who comes to mind is Claire Lee Chennault. Growing up in Gilbert and Waterproof, he became an ROTC student at LSU. After serving in the Army Air Corps, he founded the “Flying Tigers” volunteers to protect China from Japanese attacks. Returning to U.S. duty, he became a major general commanding the American 14th Air Force.
Or, as The Advocate and The Times-Picayune reported Nov. 10, Louisiana claims 26 men who received the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. One of them would be a worthy choice to rename the fort.
The fort near Leesville is now too important to go without a good Louisiana name. As the U.S. military’s Joint Readiness Training Center, it prepares our soldiers for duty worldwide. A Louisiana hero deserves to be honored there.