Richard Edward Cavazos was a pioneering American soldier who broke barriers and achieved many historic firsts in the military. He was born on January 31, 1929, in Kingsville, Texas, and grew up during the Great Depression. Despite facing significant challenges, Cavazos developed a strong work ethic and determination that would later serve him well in his military career.
Cavazos entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1947, one of only 62 Latino cadets at the time. After graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and assigned to the 65th Infantry Regiment, a predominantly Hispanic unit based in Puerto Rico. He served with distinction in the Korean War and was awarded the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for his heroism and leadership.
In 1965, Cavazos became the first Latino officer to command an infantry battalion in combat during the Vietnam War. He later served as a brigade commander and division commander before being promoted to Major General in 1976. In 1982, Cavazos made history once again when he became the first Latino officer to achieve the rank of Lieutenant General.
Cavazos’ many accomplishments in the military included his role as the commander of the Army’s Recruiting Command, where he led efforts to increase diversity and expand opportunities for underrepresented groups. He was also a champion for veterans’ rights and worked tirelessly to improve access to healthcare and other benefits for those who had served.
In 1988, Cavazos achieved yet another historic milestone when he was promoted to the rank of Four-Star General, becoming the first Latino officer to reach that rank in the U.S. military. He retired from active duty in 1989 but remained active in veterans’ organizations and continued to advocate for the rights and needs of military personnel and their families.
Cavazos’ legacy as a trailblazer and leader in the military continues to inspire and motivate future generations. He was a true patriot and hero, dedicated to serving his country and making a difference in the lives of those around him.