MILLINGTON, Tenn. - A large yellow flag is placed into a stand at
the end of a row of several other flags, beginning with the national
colors. A glass display case and a small table sit in front of the
row of flags. The case contains old football equipment, a set of
military boots, a Spider-Man pajama top, and a small array of family
photos containing a similar face at various ages. Many of the items
bear the name of their previous owner.
On the table lay a
wooden box, shaped to fit the triangularly folded flag inside, with
military awards and decorations, including a purple heart. In front
of the folded flag, lay a plaque framing a long scroll of thin paper
bearing the rubbing of a name from the memorial outside of the main
gate of Fort Carson, Colo. The name matches one that can now also be
found on a large granite sign outside a high-ceiling building on a
paved country road in Millington, Tenn.
The name on the
plaque, the name on the granite sign, and the name that can be found
upon many of the items on display, all read "Spc. Christopher Fox."
September 14, 2013 - A large granite sign with metal lettering bears
the name of the new Spc. Christopher Fox Tactical Equipment
Maintenance Facility. Fox was killed in 2008 while deployed to Iraq
as an infantryman with the 1st Bn., 68th Armored Reg., 3rd ABCT, 4th
Inf. Div., out of Fort Carson, Colo. The facility will provide
maintenance services for Army Reserve units throughout the Memphis
area. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Jelle, 3rd ABCT
PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)
The large open bay of the recently completed maintenance
facility was the site where family, friends, military
representatives and state officials gathered to reflect upon
and honor that name as the Army Reserve's 81st Regional
Support Command held a ceremony to officially open the Spc.
Christopher Fox Tactical Equipment Maintenance Facility on
September 14, 2013.
According to Billy Manley, the building commander and
supervisor, the facility is designed to support the tactical
maintenance needs of the Army Reserve units in Memphis and
the surrounding area
Manley submitted Fox's name for
the dedication after a chance encounter at a doctor's office
with Kay Jackson, Fox's aunt.
“We just got to talking
about the military and she mentioned her nephew was killed
in Iraq,” said Manley. “At the time, I was still looking for
somebody [to dedicate the building to] and it just dawned on
me as she started talking about his background, the unit he
was with and how it happened.”
Fox, an infantryman
assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment,
3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division,
during his second deployment, was killed by small-arms fire
during a dismounted patrol in the Adhamiyah district of
While Manley said he believes that any
fallen soldier would be a good candidate for this kind of
recognition, he chose Fox for being from the local area and
the recent timeframe in which he was killed.
proposed Fox's name to the 81st RSC and once they agreed, he
contacted the family and began speaking with Amy Frost.
Frost, who considered Fox as her own son, spoke at the
ceremony, while wearing white leather vest bearing a photo
of Fox and adorned with numerous buttons and patches from
his former units.
She recalled to the audience about
how she met Fox while working as a teacher at an inner-city
high school in Memphis, Tenn., in the spring of 2003.
According to her, he was “the only white student in a school
of twelve-hundred kids.” He introduced himself with a joke
and handed her a picture of himself on a football card,
which she still keeps today.
“He was an over-the-top,
bigger than life kind of kid,” said Frost.
failed his freshman year twice, due to a strained
relationship with his family. Frost was awarded temporary
custody of Fox through the court system after filing a
dependent and neglect complaint.
possibility of a third freshman year at the age of 17, Fox
expressed his desire to join the Army. Frost supported him
in making a plan to meet the educational requirements needed
to enlist. In late fall of 2004, Fox joined Job Corps. He
earned his carpentry certification and General Education
diploma by February 2005.
Fox enlisted in the Army
and entered into basic training in March 2005. By fall of
the same year, he was stationed at Fort Carson and scheduled
to deploy to Iraq.
While deployed, he was assigned
to the 1st. Bn., 68th Armor Reg., and responsible for
patrolling one of the rivers and the mentorship of the local
police. Throughout the tour, Fox was known for keeping the
morale high through his jokes and singing.
“Specialist Fox was the one soldier who everybody went to,”
said 1st Sergeant Jesus Medina, senior noncommissioned
officer for Company B, 1st Bn. 68th Armor Reg., and Fox's
platoon sergeant during that first deployment. “He was the
guy that even the leadership would go to for a pick-me-up.
The soldiers just gravitated to him.”
redeploying and spending a year back home, Fox deployed a
second time in the fall of 2007. During the following March,
Fox was injured in a blast from a roadside bomb, earning him
a purple heart. Frost, who was listed as Fox's mother on his
emergency data form, was notified.
“He loved what he
did and the people whom he did it with,” said Frost. “He
wasn't always happy about the location or the conditions,
but he loved what he did.”
Fox remained in theater
and returned to duty. He took mid-tour leave in July to see
his adoptive family. Two months later, Fox was killed. Frost
was again notified.
“On September 30th, 2008, two
Army personnel in dress greens rang my doorbell at 6 a.m.,”
said Frost, recalling the moment. “I will forever have that
memory burned into my mind, as well as what happened
Due to Federal law at the time, the Army
could not release the remains of a soldier to non-relatives.
Even though Frost was listed as the mother and the Personnel
Authorized to Direct Disposition, without the supporting
documentation required by regulations, the Army had to defer
the rights to Fox's half-brother. Frost asked to have the
body buried in a Veteran's cemetery in his hometown of
Memphis, however, he was buried in a private family grave in
Arkansas, next to his biological mother and grandfather.
“All I asked was that [he] would be remembered and taken
care of for the rest of time and given the honor due, by
having him buried in a Veteran's cemetery,” said Frost. “I
just wanted him remembered as a hero and given the respect
of someone who died fighting for their country.”
Frost reached out to several Congressmen and Representatives
in order to find out how to change the law and Army
Regulation and to broaden its definition of family.
“America is a country with many different types of families
in it, due to the diverse population that makes us what we
are,” said Frost. “What a soldier puts on that form should
be considered their last will and should be followed.”
In 2009, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) authored the “Honor
the Written Intent of our Soldier Heroes Act” or “Honor the
WISH Act,” citing Fox's case specifically as the catalyst.
“Someone who puts their life on the line defending our
country should be able to designate whomever they wish to
make arrangements for their memorial services,” said Cohen
in a statement he published online. “The Honor the WISH Act
will amend current law to let soldiers, sailors, Marines and
airmen designate who they want to organize their funeral
arrangements should they be killed while serving their
The act was approved in 2011 by the U.S.
House of Representatives as part of the 2012 Defense
Authorization bill and became public law in 2012.
“[The law] now reads the way it should,” said Frost. “It's
too late for my family...but no other family will lose their
child twice because they are not “family” enough, despite
what their soldier said.”
Knowing how much the Army,
Fox's unit and the people he served with meant to him, Frost
extended an invitation to the dedication ceremony to the
“When asked to participate in today's
ceremony, we accepted without hesitation,” said Lt. Col.
Jeremy Wilson, commander, 1st Bn., 68th Armored Reg., during
his opening remarks. “We simply did not want to be anywhere
Three members of the unit traveled from Fort
Carson to attend the ceremony to help honor the memory of
one of their “Fallen Heroes.”
“I'm really grateful
to be out here and have a chance to meet [Fox's] mom,” said
Medina. “I'm really honored and I really have to give it to
the family and Millington as a whole who have shown an
The Fort Carson soldiers spent
the afternoon after the ceremony with the family to share
“It was amazing to see the people
come down from Fort Carson,” said Frost. “It really shows me
that they care and they won't let [Fox's] name be
The items in the display case, the flag,
and the plaques, will be given a special place in the new
facility to honor the person of its namesake.
to provide the family with some closure by being able to
come out here and look at the display case and the
memorial,” said Manley.
As the crowd moved from the
large open bay to the main entrance for the ribbon cutting
and official unveiling of the bronze plaque that will adorn
the outside of the building, one thing was clear.
They were all there to remember and remind others of the
name of a self-confident but caring young man who was proud
of his unit and their large yellow flag.
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Jelle
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