In the fall of 2009, Dr. Ricardo Romo, President of The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), attended a dinner honoring Mr. Peter Holt, President of the San Antonio Spurs Basketball Team of San Antonio. Dr. Romo came away most impressed by what he heard that evening. Mr. Holt, a decorated Vietnam War Veteran, announced the million dollar Texas Challenge—he would match the first million dollars raised by Texans to support the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund (VVMF) campaign to pay for the VVMF National Education Center at Washington, D.C.
Mr. Holt's challenge was, at the time, the latest in a series of events that will culminate in the construction of the Education Center on the National Mall. The story began in May 1977 with an opinion piece by VVMF founder Jan Scruggs published in The Washington Post which called for a national memorial to "remind an ungrateful nation what it had done to its sons" who served in the Vietnam war. In August of 2006, a parcel of land was approved for construction of the Center beside the Lincoln Memorial and across the street from Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall. In September 2009, the VVMF issued the "National Call for Photos" of each of the more than 58,000 U.S. military service men and women Killed In Action (KIA) and Missing In Action (MIA) in the Vietnam War. That fall, after his conversation with Peter Holt, Dr. Romo asked his Fox Tech High School classmate and Vietnam veteran, Manuel (Mark) Marquez, to find out how many Fox Tech alumni were KIAs. After a quick check via a fellow 1963 graduate and current Fox Tech ROTC instructor, SFC Raul Sauceda, the answer came back, "we don't know . . . there are no school records on that subject."
That discovery led to a series of events in 2010. In January, Dr. Romo asked Mark to organize a volunteer group of classmates from that era who would commit to researching, collecting, and documenting photos for the Vietnam War KIAs from San Antonio and Bexar County. Thus was launched the UTSA's Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) FACES WITH NAMES project. The first two monthly meetings were convened at the UTSA's ITC in downtown San Antonio. Attendees were 1960s inner city San Antonio Independent School District classmates, veterans organization representatives, and community leaders.