|A few years ago when visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. with my wife and oldest grandson . . . a Marine veteran told me that there was another memorial honoring Vietnam veterans in Angel Fire, New Mexico . . . and that it was actually built before the better known one that was reflecting our images from its reverent black wall. |
I thanked the retired Marine for this new information and his proud, honorable service . . . and then continued on with my wife and grandson to experience the other memorials and museums at the National Mall, which required several more enjoyable days to do.
And while I never forgot about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New Mexico (now the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park), I wanted to visit it when my grandson (15) was old enough to better understand and appreciate an experience of this nature . . . which we did this past January in association with an enjoyable time skiing at the Angel Fire Resort.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park sits on 30 acres of land surrounded by the beautiful Moreno Valley that is bordered by the picturesque Sangre de Cristo Mountains and just a few miles from Angel Fire.
In addition to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial's primary structures of the Chapel and the Visitor Center, the following are also included on the State Park grounds:
- a Bell Uroquois UH-1 (Huey) that saw action in Vietnam
- the Veterans Memorial Walkway
- a life-size bronze sculpture by Doug Scott
- the "Hill of Angels" marker
- the Flag Triad
- the colorful gardens
- an amphitheater
- the grave sites of co-founders, Dr. Victor Westphall and Mrs. Jeanne Westphall
The reason for this inspiring memorial and why it became the first one to honor Vietnam veterans is wonderfully expressed by the heartfelt message of its late co-founder, Dr. Victor Westphall...
"When sons or daughters die in battle, parents are confronted with the choice of what they will do to honor the courage and sacrifice of that son or daughter. Following the death of our son, Victor David Westphall, on May 22, 1968, in Vietnam, we decided to build an enduring symbol of the tragedy and futility of war."
Victor Westphall‘s words should grab everyone's heart, and none more so than a father and mother. This proud father's message is especially personified when you are in the uniquely designed chapel, which is always open year round (24/7). Nor can I adequately explain the emotions that my wife and I felt . . . when looking at David Westphall and the other fallen heroes' photos on the chapel's wall. It really underscores the love of David's parents for him and their deep respect for the ultimate sacrifice for our beloved America by David and his fellow servicemembers.
Even my grandson was moved by the chapel . . . and the entire visit. And he took his time reading the black granite engraved bricks honoring the Medal of Honor recipients of the Vietnam War and many of the red bricks with each one engraved with a veteran's name and military service information. He also thought the Huey was cool . . . All prompting meaningful questions from him.
We also met several Vietnam veterans who are associated with the nonprofit organization, David Westphall Veterans Foundation including its president, Chuck Howe - Ret. Army Lt. Colonel, and secretary, Hoot Gibson - Ret. USAF Colonel. It was a privilege to meet these dedicated men who truly exemplify service to and love of America. (The David Westphall Veterans Foundation was responsible for all aspects on the memorial before it became a New Mexico state park . . . and is still responsible for the memorial's gift shop.)
And since the visitor center was closed for renovation during our visit, Hoot Gibson offered to provide photos of the 2010 Memorial Day Weekend activities including the dedication ceremony for the renovated visitor center by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is about to cut the ribbon in the adjacent photo.
I hope you and loved ones will one day have a similar experience at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park, which should be part of enjoying other activities available in the beautiful Angel Fire area, including Colorado like skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, golf, horseback riding, hiking, biking, camping, hunting, and fishing.
Whether your visit is in the winter or warmer months . . . you will go home with good memories.
Note... Clicking on the smaller images above will take you to their larger version or go here to see larger photos and associated information of the January visit and the Memorial Day period events.
David G. Bancroft
Founder / Owner
See the video > Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Angel Fire