. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Brooks Sexton

Terah Maupin Sexton, a local certified physician’s assistant and family practitioner, was driving her son, Brooks, to school one morning when the 6-year-old noticed an unusual license plate.

It was a New Mexico military plate, bearing the letters “POW.”

“Mom?” Brooks asked. “What does that mean?”

As they continued driving to school, Sexton explained prisoners of war to her young son, who listened attentively. When she’d finished, he told her he’d like to donate money to soldiers.

“I was thinking, ‘OK, we’ll find an organization we can donate money to,’ and he said, ‘No, I want something really big,’” Sexton says.

After some discussion, Brooks decided he wanted to conduct his own fundraiser – selling water bottles to benefit veterans.

“It was totally his idea,” Sexton says, “and he ran with it. I’ve just been helping him figure out how to do it as we go along.”

The family was aware of the Badlands Saints motorcycle club’s fundraising efforts on behalf of veterans and reached out to them for help. The Saints have helped promote Brooks’ effort in conjunction with their upcoming Cruz’n for Vets event.

Brooks decided he wanted his water bottles to reflect both his hometown and his nation. The stainless-steel bottles have graphics on either side, one featuring the Artesia High School Bulldog mascot and the words “Bulldog Strong,” the other showing silhouettes of soldiers before an American flag above the words “America Strong.”

Sean McKnight of Mustang Graphics was able to help the boy settle on the designs and print them onto bottles, and just under two weeks later, Brooks has already made 300 sales.

Asked what prompted him to help veterans, he said, “because they’re nice and they help us.”

Sexton says it has been heartwarming and a continued valuable life lesson for her son to hear the stories people share when they purchase Brooks’ bottles.

“They’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m sending this to my friend who’s serving in Afghanistan’ or ‘I’m buying this because I served in the Vietnam War,’” she says. “It’s really neat to hear all the stories.”

“I got a coin from a real soldier from when he was training in Japan!” exclaims Brooks.

Those wishing to purchase water bottles, which are $15 each, from Brooks may contact Sexton at 575-308-7199 or [email protected]

The youngster will also be on hand at the Fifth Annual Cruz’n for Vets event, which is set for May 4-5 at Hotel Artesia. More information on Cruz’n for Vets can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

One-hundred percent of the proceeds from sales of the bottles will be donated to veterans’ support organizations for the purchase of service dogs and for travel assistance for local veterans in need of reaching the VA hospital in Albuquerque.

And to those who have served and are still serving, Brooks has one simple message: “Thank you for fighting.”