Tommy Cavazos reflects on his father’s heroic legacy
Illustration: Chris Gash
His son, Tommy Cavazos, accepted the award on behalf of his late father whom he loved and admired more than anyone.
Cavazos, a Leidos Program Manager, shared about his experience and his father’s legacy as an American hero.
- “The induction ceremony was certainly quite touching,” he said, “but I always remind folks that Dad was a very humble man. He would have hated this sort of notoriety if he were alive today. But I know it’s such a comfort to the people who knew him, and it means so much to our family.”
Cavazos said it was evident at the ceremony, held in conjunction with an AUSA 2023 cadet luncheon, that his father’s spirit is alive and well.
- “All of the speakers talked about the importance of taking care of your people,” he said. “Dad would have said the exact same thing. It was gratifying to hear that, especially for the young ROTC students and cadets in the room.”
Earlier this year, the Army officially renamed Fort Cavazos, formally known as Fort Hood, in his father’s honor.
- “(The renaming) was so important to the people who served with Dad,” he said. “It’s a tremendous recognition of their loyalty and service, which is a debt we can never repay. It was all quite surreal, but it was beautifully and respectfully done.”
Located in Killeen, Texas, Fort Cavazos today is the third-largest U.S. military base and home to more than 36,000 Soldiers.
A distinguished career: General Cavazos, one of the most decorated veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, was known for combat heroism, brilliant leadership and uncommon humility.
A two-time recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second-highest decoration, he once saved five wounded men amid intense fire after receiving the order to withdraw his company, an episode the Army describes in more detail here.
General Cavazos was the U.S. Army's first Hispanic Brigadier General. Photo courtesy of the Cavazos family.
As an officer, he was known to lead by example and instill confidence in his troops, including the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Division, nicknamed “The Borinqueneers,” who were renowned for their bravery and valor.
At home, General Cavazos was an extraordinary father to his son and three daughters.
- “Despite all the accolades and promotions, my father was a very humble and genuine person,” Cavazos said. “To us, he was just Dad. A good, solid father. He could be strict like many military fathers, but he certainly enjoyed life, and he enjoyed his family.”
Cavazos said his father was an avid bird hunter with a passion for training Labrador Retrievers. In retirement, he settled on a 10-acre farm in central Texas.
General Cavazos died in 2017 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He was 88 years old.
Sustaining the legacy: At Leidos, Cavazos is an expert in the field of directed energy technology. Among other projects, he’s working to develop THOR and Mjölnir, advanced weapons that will allow the Army to better defend against emerging drone threats.
Cavazos said finding a niche in force protection has been a rewarding career, and has allowed him to stay connected to the Army’s mission that he became so familiar with growing up.
- “I respect, admire and certainly love the people who serve,” he said. “At Leidos, it’s been gratifying to work on technology that will the help them do their job and, more importantly, stay alive.”
His son, a U.S. Army Soldier, is currently on a tour of duty overseas.
- “Between Dad and my son, the Army’s mission is very personal to me,” he said. "I think about them every day. They’re why I do what I do.”
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