Some of New Mexico’s top military leaders have discussed for years a way to honor state residents who have volunteered for National Guard duty, maintaining jobs and families in their home communities while preparing to be called at a moment’s notice to serve when and where needed.
Last month, the New Mexico Military Museum Foundation, which works to support the Santa Fe-based museum that honors veterans in the state, initiated a new program to do just that — and a Texas businessman has vowed to help fund it.
Steve Fox, CEO of the Fox Auto Group in El Paso, who has ties to New Mexico, is donating $100,000 to help support the New Mexico Military Museum and its new Hall of Honor program, which recognizes people who have served in the New Mexico National Guard. He and foundation leaders are now asking members of the community to step forward with contributions to match that gift on Giving Tuesday.
The online charity initiative, held since 2012 on the first Tueday after Thanksgiving Day, encourages people to donate to nonprofit organizations. In 2018, the effort raised nearly $400 million for nonprofits across the U.S., including over $2.5 million in New Mexico, according to the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, which coordinates the statewide initiative.
The New Mexico Military Museum Foundation is among dozens of local organizations holding Giving Tuesday fundraising campaigns.
The New Mexico National Guard Hall of Honor chose its initial three inductees during a public ceremony Saturday in Albuquerque.
One is a former adjutant general of New Mexico. Another is a long-deceased World War I officer. The third is a Vietnam veteran who died in 2004.
“We want to represent the citizen soldier, those individuals who served in the National Guard and who remain committed to the well-being of their communities,” said Jack Fox, former secretary of New Mexico Department of Veterans Services and a brother of Steve Fox.
“Maybe they work as coaches, maybe they’re the school teacher down the block, but they are still willing to go off to war and come back and rebuild their lives and their communities,” Jack Fox said.
He joined the U.S. Army as a commissioned 2nd lieutenant in the infantry in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War. He rose through the ranks to brigadier general, serving as a combat training officer and infantry brigade commander, among other duties.
His younger brother Steve, four years his junior, didn’t volunteer for the war. He waited instead for the draft to pull him in — which didn’t happen before the Vietnam War wound down in the early 1970s.
But his older brother’s decision made a powerful impression on Steve Fox, especially when Jack told him, “You don’t have to wear the uniform to serve your country.”
Some 50 years later, Steve Fox surprised his brother with the $100,000 donation to the Military Museum Foundation during Saturday’s ceremony.
“Being able to make a financial contribution is not the same as wearing the uniform and paying the potential price,” Steve Fox said Monday.
“I always look for ways to serve our country and the men and women who serve it.”
Ralph Nava, chairman of the Military Museum Foundation, said any amount of donation would help support the museum’s effort to expand, catalog its holdings, and hire student interns to research and tell the stories of New Mexico veterans.
The museum also wants to create an interactive computer database that would allow visitors to use touchscreen computers to find out about relatives who have served, he said.
For example, he said, museum staffers just discovered the story of a Santa Cruz family with five sons who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Four of the five sons saw action.
Steve Fox said he hopes the new Hall of Honor program thrives.
“I want us to continue the tradition of acknowledging these wonderful people who serve, who serve as role models for our country and community,” he said.
The first of the three initial inductees is retired Lt. Gen. Edward Baca, former adjutant general of New Mexico and chief of the National Guard Bureau and a Vietnam War veteran.
Jack Fox, who served with Baca, said he is “an extraordinary military leader” who helped make inroads in modernizing the state’s National Guard’s weaponry and military tactics.
The second is the late Chief Master Sgt. William Compton, who first deployed to Vietnam with the New Mexico Air National Guard’s 150th Fighter Group as an aircraft maintenance soldier. According to his nomination letter, his actions under “hostile conditions contributed greatly to the successful completion of the unit’s mission there.”
The third inductee is Lt. Col. Charles de Bremond of Roswell, who served in the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa following Villa’s raid on the New Mexican border town of Columbus in 1916.
Bremond’s Battery A later made “a name for itself on the French front during World War I … firing more artillery rounds than any other Army units,” according to the nominating letter.
De Bremond died in 1919 of respiratory complications from a poison gas attack in the war.