Gallup, New Mexico: Most Patriotic Small Town in America – I am New Mexico

Gallup, New Mexico: Most Patriotic Small Town in America


Here is the story behind Gallup being named the Most Patriotic Small Town in America.
In May 2013 I was visiting my dear friend and Medal of Honor Recipient Mr. Hershey Miyamura. We were just talking about stuff when the subject turned to challenge coins. Not sure if you are aware of what challenge coins are, but they get their origin from WW1 where a young, but wealthy Lt. had medallions struck and given to all the people in his squadron. Sorry, I love military history.

Well as we were talking about Challenge Coins, Hershey had stated that he had set some aside for me to have. As he was giving me each coin he told a particular story and then when he got to one coin Hershey had asked if I had known that Gainesville, TX was selected at the Most Patriotic Small Town in America for 2012-2013. I hadn’t known that because I did not know that such a contest existed. Well Mr. Miyamura handed me a coin from Gainesville, TX indicating that and we continued our visit. When I had gotten home and was adding the coins given to me by Mr. Miyamura to my then fairly new collection I began to think, “How does a town get named as the Most Patriotic Small Town in America?” So thus began my research and that evening I found that Rand McNally was about to begin the 2013-2014 search. The contest was called “Best of the Road” and it was a search for the 6 best small towns in different categories, but being a veteran, I was drawn to Most Patriotic and on July 1st, 2013 I nominated Gallup in that category. I had advised my boss Mr. Yogash Kumar of what I wanted to do and he just told me that he would give me whatever time off I needed as he knew this was not only very important to myself, but to our community and our veterans and he told (and I quote), “Ken go ahead and do whatever you have to do, just make sure Gallup wins.” No pressure there.

So the voting portion of the contest began on July 1st and ran until August 31st at which time we were in 2nd place in the Most Patriotic Category. I was a bit disappointed as you could vote every day and believe me I reminded everyone every day that they could and should vote every day. From meetings like the Rotary Club and Chamber Business After Hours, to our bi-weekly Veterans Helping Veterans meetings and on social media too. I know I put my family and my staff through a lot when this was going on because this is all I talked about.

So after to voting was over, a lot of people came up to me and said, oh well too bad, Gallup didn’t win, but I was quick to remind them that it wasn’t over yet. I put it in terms where people would better understand. I would tell them just think of a baseball season. The regular season is over and now it’s the playoffs. Well the “playoffs” consisted on continued posting of pictures and stories as to why Gallup should win and an essay and video. Here again I continued to take the “point” encouraging all to post their photo’s on social media and the Best of the Road website and to tell stories about how Gallup should win. A lot of photo’s that I posted may not have initially appeared to be of a patriotic nature, but when I would explain how we in Gallup celebrate our freedoms 24/7 by pulling together to help each other out, or by attending nightly events and our monthly arts crawl, it fit in.
So an essay had to be written, which I took that upon myself to write and with the help of the UNM-Gallup English department doing a bit of editing we were good to go, but there was still a video to do. I enlisted the help of a Mr. Steve Bongers whose father in-law is a fellow veteran. As I visited with Mr. Bongers and we talked about what should be on the video I had told him that Mr. Miyamura should be in it since he was my inspiration to nominate Gallup in the first place. Mr. Miyamura has also been my main inspiration to better appreciate my own military service too. It was also agreed upon that we needed to incorporate our school children and our mayor. I also contacted Ms. Monique Jacobson who was the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism at the time and she gladly helped out. Well we put the video together and submitted that around mid September and just crossed our fingers and waited. Around Mid October I received an email stating that the results are in and while I do admit I was very nervous I thought, you know what, you did an amazing job on this and you took command and kept it going when most others would have given up. So after I got the nerve up to check the website I could hardly believe my eyes when I had seen that Gallup had won. I first called my wife to tell her and to thank her so much for bearing with me for almost 4 months of what I am sure was agony for her. I then called Mr. Miyamura (who unfortunately was out of town, but the message got to him right away through family and he called me to congratulate me on all the work I had done.) It has been such a huge honor being a part of this and was a great honor too being recognized by State Senator George Munoz on the Senate Floor in Santa Fe on 30 Jan 2014.

Our community has grasped the victory well too with signs and banners and with every activity such as our annual Quilts of Valor event (of which my wife and I are volunteers) to just recently a dedication of a new VA Clinic named after Mr. Miyamura people still talk about Gallup being named the Most Patriotic Small Town in America and Gallupians will still talk about this long after I am gone.

One interesting fact to this is last year in April I had contacted Rand McNally to see when the 2014-2015 contest would begin and was told that they were cancelling it for that year, but they would reinstate it for 2015-2016 so to enjoy being the Most Patriotic Small Town in America for another year. Well again this year the contest was cancelled and I was told that since the contest was being cancelled again and that it was not going to be reinstated, that we should enjoy being the Most Patriotic Small Town in America forever. I had told them that since they knew they had found the Most Patriotic Small Town in America in Gallup there was no longer a need to continue the search. I was told to promote it that way which I have been.

I do apologize for writing such a long story, but this is the story of how Gallup became known as the Most Patriotic Small Town in America.

Thank you again for your time and hope you enjoy this story. For more information on this contest and Gallup’s amazing victory and to read or essay and watch our video please go to:


Ken Riege