Saturday, June 14, 2014

Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park - 6/13/14

If you have any personal connection with the Vietnam War (1963-1975), we would highly recommend that you visit this very special State Park. Others will find it of interest, but those who served in Vietnam or had a loved one there or lost a loved one to the war effort, will likely experience the intense emotional response that we did. They have plenty of tissue boxes around for visitors and we both needed them.

This was the first major Vietnam War memorial in the U.S, and the only state park dedicated exclusively to veterans of that war. It is located in Angel Fire, NM, off of Rte 64 along the Enchanted Circle in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of NE New Mexico.

The grief-stricken parents of Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall, Victor and Jeanne Westphall, created this beautiful memorial. Their son was one of 16 men killed in an ambush in May, 1968. The chapel resembles a sail and overlooks the Moreno Valley - beloved by David. It is open 24-hours a day and visitors leave wreaths, flowers, etc., in memory of loved ones, lost in the war.

The beautiful Moreno Valley.

Interior of chapel.

Amphitheater style seating in the chapel.

It was dedicated in 1971 on the anniversary of David's death. With the media coverage during the dedication, it helped inspire the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, in 1983.  In 2005, the memorial became a New Mexico state park.

There is a Huey helicopter on-site near the memorial garden that was used during the Vietnam War and donated to the park by the New Mexico National Guard.

John remembering the times he spent in one of these choppers.

Additionally, there is a statue entitled, Dear Mom and Dad," that depicts a soldier writing home

View from the Visitor Center entrance.

There are several rooms with exhibits of artifacts, photos, banners, sculptures from the war. Additionally, the HBO documentary film, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, is shown during scheduled times throughout the day at the Visitor Center. All of the scenes are actual clips from the times and Vietnam. It will elicit strong emotional responses particularly from those who served there. Very well done film documenting so many different emotions of those who served and how attitudes changed over the course of the war.

John - pointing to the area of operation (Chu Lai) where he was in 1970-71.

John checking out a radio that is like the one he carried for the LT in his unit.

Bound Hands: the symbol of the Prisoner of War

Scale replica of statue at the Wall in Washington DC. They also have one of the statue dedicated to the women that served that is also situated near the Wall in DC.


The Run for the Wall motorcycle riders make this Memorial their first stop en route to the Washington, DC monument. About 500 bikers visit the Friday before Memorial Day each year. We saw some biker veterans when we were there as well.

Admission: Free. Chapel open 24-hours. Visitor and gift shop hours vary.


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