Fort Polk name to cost $1.3M, concern over process

Hundreds of items will need to be replaced with the name change of Ft. Polk, but local stakeholders are concerned the estimated price tag will not be enough.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 8:59 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 10:35 AM CDT
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LEESVILLE, La. (KALB) - From directional signs along Highway 28 West, to welcome signs entering the post and every letterhead, flyer and promotional material, hundreds of documents and signage need to be changed over to the congressional commission’s recommendation from Fort Polk to Fort Johnson. The post would hold the name of Army Sergeant William Henry Johnson who posthumounsly received a Purple Heart for his service in WWI in 1996, followed by the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2015.

At Ft. Polk alone, the name-change process will cost $1.3 million, with an estimated $21 million for all nine military posts nationwide. Those estimates came down from the naming commission’s final report released Tuesday.

“Fort Polk’s big,” said Leesville Mayor Rick Allen, who is also acting chairman of the Louisiana Armed Forces Alliance. “Whenever you go to looking at everything spread across 50% of our parish that says Fort Polk on it has to be changed out, there’s gonna be signs missed somewhere.”

Allen said he fears that the price tag is not an adequate estimation of the cost of the renaming process, and he does not anticipate it will cover the replacement of all signs and paperwork.

“Did they account for everything in every office building on Fort Polk?” asked Allen. “I don’t think that’s possible [...] DOD needs to commit to not only changing all of that stuff, but in the event that there’s something left out, that they’re willing to come back and take care of that.”

The mayor worries the burden to replace any unchanged items will fall on the Ft. Polk garrison, which has a fixed budget each year.

“We’re going to watch that very closely, and we’re going to hold Congress responsible for those items and not the garrison,” explained Allen.

The name change has not been well-received by all within the community. Although the renaming process was supposed to be a collaborative effort between the local stakeholders and the naming commission, Allen claimed the community felt they ultimately did not have much of a say.

“This was something that was done in Washington, and we as a community, they tried to make us feel like that we had input, but at the end of the day, I have to say that we did not have much input in it at all,” explained Allen. “This is the cards we’ve been dealt. And now how do we as a community keep the tension down and move forward? And that’s what our focus is going to be here at the City and at Fort Polk.”

Mayor Allen also said he is not aware of who will be overseeing the renaming process at the post or if anyone would be tasked with taking bids on contractors to carry out replacement efforts.

The secretary of defense is expected to fully implement the naming commission’s plans to rename all nine posts by the start of 2024.

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