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After months of preparation, name change for Fort Bragg becomes official next week

Army leaders say Fort Liberty will remain true to its history, its culture and its mission


New signs leading onto the nation’s largest military installation will be covered ahead of June 2.

That’s the day officials have chosen for the end of Fort Bragg, a storied military post that has long been an economic and cultural driver of Fayetteville and the North Carolina Sandhills and a key cog in America’s national defense strategy.

But the sprawling installation, which covers more than 251 square miles and is home to approximately 51,000 service members and thousands of civilian employees and contractors, is not going anywhere.

Instead, the federal government is dropping the name “Bragg,” which was taken from Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, in favor of a new name.

Welcome to Fort Liberty.

The name change culminates an effort that has been in the works for well over a year and included a post-wide review to identify the names of streets, buildings and other facilities that also may have paid homage to those who fought against the United States in the Civil War.

The local effort is part of a larger, Defense Department-wide review that was led by a government commission created by Congress in 2021. The Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense That Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily With the Confederate States of America is more commonly known as the Naming Commission.

It submitted its final report last year, recommending that nine Army installations, as well as numerous streets, buildings and other facilities, be renamed. Pentagon officials announced they would move forward with the renamings last year and set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2024.

Officials estimate the cost of the changes will be about $62.5 million for the entire U.S. military. On Fort Bragg, that figure is expected to be $8 million, with the Army’s Installation Management Command ultimately footing the bill.

“Essentially, anything named after, paying homage to or with any relation to a Confederate soldier or officer needed to be highlighted,” Col. John M. Wilcox, the Fort Bragg garrison commander, said of the local review of names. “And then through a process of elimination, the Army decided on what needed to be removed and what could stay.”

Gone? Nine street names with ties to Confederate soldiers; numerous portraits of Braxton Bragg and other Confederate leaders, including Gen. Robert E. Lee; and any other item that could be construed as paying homage to the Confederacy.

What will not be removed are the graves of Confederate soldiers buried on post and any memorial to fallen soldiers that references the name Fort Bragg.

“We looked at everything,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Don Nauck, director of Task Force Liberty, the organization overseeing the changes on post. “We had teams go around so we could make sure we were tracking. Does this need to go? … If it was a memorial on a wall to someone who died in Desert Shield, Desert Storm or after 9/11 and it said they were stationed at Fort Bragg, that’s not paying homage to Braxton Bragg.”

Update your street map

Officials have already renamed the nine streets tied to the changes. Most of the new names honor local Medal of Honor recipients and other late veterans who have become local legends during the post’s century of service. In all, 150 street signs were replaced.

Reilly Road is now Rock Merritt Avenue, for the late Silver Star recipient and World War II veteran, Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt.

Randolph Street was renamed to R. Miller Street, honoring Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008 while serving with the 3rd Special Forces Group.

Armistead Street is now Stiner Road, named for Gen. Carl Stiner, who led several key local commands, including Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command, the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division.

Alexander Street was renamed Gandara Street in honor of Pvt. Joe Gandara, an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper who posthumously received the Medal of Honor after actions in France during World War II.

Pelham Street is now Conde-Falcon Road for Staff Sgt. Felix M. Conde-Falcon, an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam.

Jackson Street was renamed Merriweather Road in honor of Staff Sgt. Daniel Merriweather, a member of the 16th Military Police Brigade who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Donelson Street is now Benavidez Street in honor of Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, who received the Medal of Honor in Vietnam and served with the 5th Special Forces Group, 18th Airborne Corps and 82nd Airborne Division.

And Mosby Street was renamed Shachnow Lane in honor of the late Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, a Holocaust survivor and distinguished member of the Special Forces and special operations communities.

Two of those streets, the former Reilly Road and Bragg Boulevard, extend off post. Wilcox said local military leaders have encouraged community leaders in Fayetteville, Spring Lake and Cumberland County to change the street names to match the new on-post names.

“But you know, we’re guests here. We’re part of the community. And we will go with whichever way (local leaders) want to go. But it’s our hope that they will change to match the new names on post.”

Bragg Boulevard is a state-maintained road, but a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation said the state uses only the numerical designation and that any change in the name Bragg Boulevard would have to come from leaders in Cumberland County.

The state is, however, changing direction signs found across North Carolina and is expecting the military to cover at least some of those costs, estimated to total about half a million dollars.

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A post by any other name

The changes on post affect every level of the installation, from the largest to the smallest unit. They include new stationary and business cards, which are typically replaced anyway when a new commander arrives during the typical summer transition period. Other changes will be new stenciling for military vehicles, with “FB” being replaced by “FL,” and a change to merchandise on the shelves of on-post stores.

“It’s extremely hard to find anything ‘Fort Bragg’ left on the shelves,” Wilcox said. “They’ve already started ordering Fort Liberty gear to put out on the shelves as soon as we’ve changed the name on the 2nd of June.”

While the name change is underway, Fort Bragg leaders want to stress that the only change at the installation is its new name.

“Most people didn’t know who Braxton Bragg was. They have no clue,” said Nauck, director of Task Force Liberty. “Most people can’t tell you when we became Camp Bragg. Most people won’t be able to tell you when we became Fort Bragg. And most people won’t be able to tell you in 10, 20 years when we became Fort Liberty.

“Different day, different soldiers, different culture. And as our younger soldiers and generations come in, they’ll know this as Fort Liberty, as their home,” he added. “Fort Bragg is much more than a name of a base. It’s a culture. It’s about the people. It’s about what we do here. It’s the pride and joy we have for being in America’s 911 force, what we do, our special operators and Airborne forces deploying around the world. When that call comes, it’s always Fort Bragg. It will always be Fort Liberty.”

“Nothing’s going to change other than the name. It will be the same units, the same organization and the same pride and the same culture.”

Wilcox agrees. He’s heard the complaints from some that Fort Bragg is throwing away its history and forgetting about its past sacrifices.

But just as the name changes to Fort Liberty, the installation will also start a new tradition aimed at ensuring those sacrifices will never be forgotten.

A daily Sunset Liberty March, spanning a half-mile trail and involving a new veteran volunteer each day, will honor the installation’s history, passing monuments honoring specific points in the more than a century of service of the installation. The daily march will be open to the public with volunteers signing up to participate online at sunsetlibertymarch.com.

Drew Brooks has more than 16 years of journalism experience across the Carolinas and Washington, D.C. He spent a decade covering Fort Bragg troops, reporting from Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Germany and Poland, among numerous other assignments.

Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, Fort Liberty, Army, 82nd Airborne Division, military