Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Vietnam National Monument, Angel FIre, New Mexico

On May 22, 1968 David Westphall was killed in an enemy ambush in Con Thien, Vietnam.

Within days his father, Dr. Victor Westphall had begun work on a Vietnam memorial to his son high on a hill overlooking Angel Fire, New Mexico. The memorial, dedicated in 1971, is now a national monument.

In 1994, Dr. Westphall, at the age of 80, travelled to Con Thien, taking a handful of dirt with him from the memorial at Angel Fire to scatter on the spot where his son was killed. He brought home a handful of dirt from Con Thien to scatter at the monument at Angel Fire.

The monument has been described through the years by countless people as "holy", "spiritual", "mystic."

This is what Dr Westphall said: "There is an aura of mysticism surrounding this whole place, this whole situation. The aboriginal peoples of this area sensed it and the people who come to visit it today repeatedly have indicated these same feelings to me. They sense something in the place they do not fully understand. There is something about this place, something more than just being a beautiful location. I'm just trying to fill in the pieces of the mysticism surrounding it. Perhaps it all leads up to my trip to Vietnam. It was a closure, a relief to have done it. It gave me a peace of mind. It was something that must be done; and having done it, I am relieved."

"It's here for all of us. For the veterans, many who come here with great trepidation, who found peace after being here. They sense this place might tell them something about themselves, something in the background, a mystery, an unknown quantity they didn't know they'd find. But it's not confined to veterans, not at all. It's pretty much general among the entire population of visitors. Totally on their own, with no prompting whatsoever, they will say they sense something; and they can't quite put their finger on it."

Dr, Westphall died in 2003, and is buried at the monument.

(Quote by Dr. Victor Westphall from an article in the Albuquerque Journal, 1994.)


Bag Blog said...

This memorial was built before Vietnam memorials were popular. My uncle did three tours in Vietnam including the Ia Drang Valley. He and my dad visited the memorial YEARS ago. Dad told me later that my uncle cried while Dad held him.

Towanda said...

This was my second visit to the memorial at Angel Fire, and I have been to the National Memorial in Washington DC twice as well. I cannot visit either of them without crying and being strongly moved.

When we were at Angel Fire last week, I struck up a conversation with a Nam vet that was there. I asked him how he was doing and he said "Oh just fine, no problems", but after a few minutes of conversation it was easy to see how much anger and emotion he still had bottled up inside of him just under the surface. After we talked a while, I told him, "Welcome home my friend", and then we were both bawling.

Vietnam changed our generation forever in so many ways. Visiting the memorial feels like one is back in 1968 again, wondering why the young men of our generation -- our friends and relatives -- were dying. To me Angel Fire is a sacred place to their memory.

WasSoggyInSeattle said...

Fantastic... Added to our list of places to visit. Thanks for sharing your pics.

Val said...

Beautiful images! It is such a peaceful place.

Karin Hosenfeld BS, RD/LD said...

What I see is an incredible representation of just how much Dr. Westphall loved his son. That in itself is very moving. That sticks with you. Seems like people find some meaning in a meaningless part of history. Maybe that's part of the mystery.