Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Angel Fire, New Mexico

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was constructed from 1968-1971, in Angel Fire, New Mexico and was the first major Vietnam memorial in the United States. The Memorial grounds and Chapel were built by Dr. Victor and Jeanne Wesphall to honor their son, 1st Lt. David Westphall, who died in combat in a 1968 ambush in Vietnam. In 1982 after depleting all of their personal finances the Westphalls persuaded the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to assume financial responsibility for maintaining the grounds. It took until 1987 for Congress to recognize this memorial as a Memorial of National significance. In 2017 the memorial was officially transferred to the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services.

Bruce in front of the Viking Surprise

This Bell Iroquois UH-1 (Huey) was used in the Vietnam war as a smoke ship and was nicknamed the “Viking Surprise”. Smoke ships were used to provide cover for ground operations. They flew in first and laid down a smoke screen around a landing zone. On Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967 the Viking Surprise was used for a rescue mission, making 12-13 smoke passes, running out of oil just as the 4th and final rescue helicopter left the ground. Upon return during inspection it was discovered that there were 135 bullet holes, six right through the pilot’s compartment.

The Surprise was rebuilt and returned to service until 1976 when it came back to the USA.

In October 2016 the Viking Surprise was restored in Roswell NM by volunteer New Mexico Guardsmen and they maintain it to this day.

At every turn you see signs of the love and devotion the Westphalls had for their son. Victor and Jeanne Westphall are buried on site along with their dog, Anna.

The amphitheater is used for annual programs honoring U.S. Veterans of all wars.

We don’t know why the bell is covered but it hangs over the seals of every branch of the miltary.

The new Veterans Cemetery was just dedicated this past Memorial Day, 2021

There is also a museum on the grounds. We didn’t take many pictures inside.

Bruce was in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment

The Missing Man Table

Bruce served in the Vietnam War so visiting this memorial held special meaning for him. I was a child during this war so don’t hold my own memories but left this memorial teary eyed. It is truly a wonderful memorial to everyone who has served our Country.

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