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Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park

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Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park

Elevation: 8,500 ft
Coordinates: 36.44099, -105.29441


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Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park was the first major Vietnam memorial in the United States. It is currently the only state park dedicated exclusively to veterans of the Vietnam War. It is located off United States Highway 64 in Angel Fire (Colfax County) in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the Enchanted Circle of northeastern New Mexico.

History

The memorial was begun by Victor and Jeanne Westphall, the grief-stricken parents of Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall, who was among sixteen young men in his unit killed in an ambush on May 22, 1968 in Vietnam. The Westphalls used their son's insurance policies to begin construction of the Peace and Brotherhood Chapel. The chapel resembles a sail and perches on the hillside overlooking the Moreno Valley. The chapel is open twenty-four hours per day. The David Westphall Veterans Foundation has since supported the operation of the memorial, which was dedicated on the anniversary of David's death in 1971. At the time of its construction, the site received national media attention and helped inspire the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., completed in 1982. In 1987, the United States Congress recognized Angel Fire as a memorial of national significance.

Present day

The park hosts thousands of annual visitors, many moved emotionally by the sacrifice of the Vietnam veterans. In 2005, the site became New Mexico's 33rd state park. It is operated in partnership with the David Westphall Veterans Foundation, which allows it to be the only New Mexico State Park that does not charge a fee.

The Visitor Center, dedicated in 1986, features photographs and banners from some of the 210 units which served in Vietnam. There is a media room which shows the 86-minute Home Box Office documentary film Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. A Veteran's Room honors the military personnel killed or missing in action. The POW/MIA flag waves outside the center. The center seeks to educate Americans about Vietnam and to maintain a haven for healing and reconciliation.

The memorial maintains a Huey helicopter known originally as "Viking Surprise," one of the first smokeships used in Vietnam. On March 26, 1967, the helicopter, while rescuing service personnel, was so bady damaged 135 bullet holes that it was returned to the United States for repairs. The copter returned to Vietnam and was later sent to the New Mexico National Guard, which donated it to the Angel Fire memorial.

The memorial also maintains a statue by Doug Scott of Taos, entitled "Dear Mom and Dad." It depicts a soldier, with his rifle on his shoulder, writing a letter home. There is also a scale model of the Vietnam Women's Memorial by Glenna Goodacre of Santa Fe (born in Lubbock, Texas), which was unveiled on the Washington Mall in 1993.

Traditions

The Run for the Wall riders make Angel Fire and Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park one of their first stops on their trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Up to 500 motorcycles visit the Memorial on Friday the weekend before Memorial Day. Also, starting in 1981, there has been a motorcycle rally from the nearby town of Red River, New Mexico every Memorial Day weekend. Most of the riders visit the Memorial during the rally. Up to 30,000 motorcyclists attend.

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