This week’s America250 salute is Army Veteran Edward Baca.
Edward Baca was born in July 1938, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During high school, he worked construction jobs during the summer to help pay tuition. Baca’s father passed away shortly after Baca graduated high school in 1956. Around this time, his cousin, who helped him through his father’s death, gave Baca career advice to join the Army National Guard. Baca did so on Nov. 19, 1956, and was assigned to Battery C, 726th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion.
Following his enlistment, Baca worked positions that included anti-aircraft gunner and supply sergeant. After several years, Baca attended Officer Candidate School and graduated in 1962, where he received a commission as a second lieutenant. He also became platoon leader for the 3631st Maintenance Company.
A year after the U.S. entered the Vietnam War, Baca volunteered for active duty and deployed to South Vietnam. Baca returned to the U.S. in 1966, where he returned to the New Mexico National Guard. In 1977, Baca worked as a military personnel officer and promoted to brigadier general two years later.
After this, Baca worked as the State Command Administrative Officer and Secretary of the General Staff until 1983, when New Mexico’s governor appointed Baca to adjutant general. He also promoted to major general.
In this position, Baca began making significant contributions to the National Guard. He led a nationwide National Guard modernization effort where he saw the deployment of the Roland Air Defense Battalion. Baca also helped modernize equipment and weapons systems through acquiring Hawk and Patriot missile systems and F-16 fighters. Under Baca’s watch, the New Mexico National Guard’s drug demand reduction program become a standard-bearer for other states looking to implement similar programs. He also saw the New Mexico National Guard strengthen its supporting role in assisting law enforcement with counterdrug efforts.
After serving as adjutant general for 12 years, Baca promoted to lieutenant general and became chief of the National Guard Bureau in October 1994, becoming the first Hispanic to hold this position. In this role, he oversaw nearly 500,000 Army and Air National Guard members during his four-year tenure. Baca retired in 1998 at the rank of lieutenant general having served for 41 years.
During his service, Baca completed the Ordnance Officer Advanced Course and the Command and General Staff Officer Course. He also earned a degree in liberal arts from the State University of New York in Albany. Baca received an honorary doctorate of law from New Mexico State University.
In retirement, Baca built strong relationships with his local Guard and Veteran communities, which included those who served during the Battles of Bataan and Corregidor during World War II. He also developed a three-day leadership program that received accreditation from the New Mexico State Law Enforcement Academy.
During his service, Baca earned numerous awards and honors including a Legion of Merit, Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal and multiple Distinguished Service Medals.
Baca passed away in September 2020 after a long battle with leukemia.
We honor his service.
VA is highlighting 250 Veterans leading up to July 4, 2026, which marks 250 years of independence. Learn more about the count down to 250 years of the American spirit at https://america250.org/.
Writer: Raymond Lin, Michael Veronda
Editor: Julia Pack, Annabelle Colton
Fact Checker: Kelly Wun
Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley