The United States Army lost a treasure on Sunday when General Richard Cavazos passed away. Gen. Cavazos died in San Antonio, Texas, from complications stemming from Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 88.
Gen. Cavazos dedicated 33 years to the military, rising through the ranks to become the U.S. Army’s first Hispanic four-star general. He paved the way for three other Hispanic Generals so far, some of whom, like Major General Alfredo Valenzuela, served under him.
Cavazos completed ROTC education in high school and college. He attended Texas Tech University where he played football and graduated with a Geology degree. He entered the army as an officer and was deployed with the 65th Infantry to Korea. There he earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism.
In Vietnam Cavazos earned a second Distinguished Service Cross for “Brilliant leadership in the face of grave danger” at the battle of Loc Ninh. Then, in 1976, at the age of 47, he became the first Hispanic to achieve the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.
“His impact as a mentor is probably the greatest impact our army had […] and so we all looked up to him as an American soldier, a Hispanic soldier,” Maj. Gen. Valenzuela told MySA.com. “He was the guy we wanted to be. If we couldn’t be him, we wanted to be near him and serve with him.”
Cavazos retired in 1984, and in 1985 President Regan appointed him to the Chemical Warfare Review Committee. He also served on the Board of Regents at Texas Tech University.
A native Texan, Cavazos was born in Kingsville. His father was a ranch hand on the Santa Gertrudis Division of the King Ranch, and also served in the U.S. Army.
Cavazos isn’t the only distinguished person in his family. His brother, Lauro Cavazos, was the President of Texas Tech University, and served as the U.S. Secretary of Education under Presidents Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush.