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In Memoriam: Col. Wesley L. Fox, Medal of Honor recipient and honorary Virginia Tech alumnus

November 27, 2017

A female cadet, at left, shakes the hand of Col. Wesley L. Fox, at right.
Col. Wesley L. Fox greets first-year cadets after talking with the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets' Class of 2020 in 2016.

Medal of Honor recipient, U.S. Marine, and former deputy commandant for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Col. Wesley L. Fox died Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was 86.

Fox grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and enlisted with the U.S. Marines in 1950 at the start of the Korean War. Months later, he was deployed to Korea as a rifleman and began a 43-year career in the military. He spent the first 16 years as a noncommissioned officer, and in addition to his combat assignments, he worked as a drill instructor, a recruiter, and a military police officer. In 1966, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

On Feb. 22, 1969, while serving as the commanding officer of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division in A Shau Valley, Vietnam, Fox's unit was attacked. Despite injury, Fox led his men as they advanced through heavy fire. They eventually forced the North Vietnamese troops to retreat. Wounded again in a final assault, Fox continued to refuse medical attention and instead ensured that other wounded Marines were tended to and evacuated.

“His indomitable courage, inspiring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger inspired his Marines to such aggressive actions that they overcame all enemy resistance and destroyed a large bunker complex,” according to the Medal of Honor citation read by President Richard Nixon.

Fox also earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, among other recognitions.

Fox retired from the military in 1993 as a colonel and came to Virginia Tech, where he served as the deputy commandant of the corps’ 1st Battalion from 1993 to 2001. After his retirement from the university, he remained a fixture within the corps through leadership advice and mentorship to hundreds of cadets.

“Colonel Fox will long be remembered for his love of country, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets,” said Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart, commandant of cadets. “Through his books and presence, he continued to touch every class that came through the corps. His friendship and mentorship will be greatly missed.”

Fox was the author of two books: “Marine Rifleman: Forty-Three Years in the Corps (Memories of War)” in 2002 and “Six Essential Elements of Leadership: Marine Corps Wisdom from a Medal of Honor Recipient” in 2011. His leadership book is required reading for all first-year cadets.

In November 2011, Fox received lifetime honorary membership in the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

In 2016, he was recognized with a center-aisle presentation in the Virginia Senate “as an expression of the General Assembly’s admiration for his heroic service and sacrifices in defense of the nation,” according to the proclamation.

Visitation will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive S.W., in Blacksburg. Funeral services will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a date to be determined.

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