Friday, June 8, 2012

May 24, 2012. The Hawthornes Visit The Vietnam Memorial.

The Hawthornes left Taos and are traveling to somewhere or other.
I believe we're headed towards Colorado Springs.
Both trips out,
we missed Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak,
and I was determined to see them this time.

In the middle of nowhere,
nowhere being on highway 64,
4 1/2 miles north of Angel Fire, NM.,
and before Eagle's Nest, NM.,
there's a monument on top of a hill
which we saw from the distance.
We're curious.
We think it's a church, but aren't sure.

As we're zipping by,
we see this sign:
Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park.

Mr. Hawthorne did a u-ey.
We're checking this out.

Entrance to the memorial.

Lt. David Westphall in Vietnam with members of his unit.

Doc Westphall's journey to Vietnam.

You'll hear more about the Westphalls later.
As a tribute to the Armed Forces of America,
the Angel Fire Garden Club
maintains the Blue Star Garden.

This is a life-size statue of a soldier
 writing a letter home,
by artist Doug Scott of Taos,
entitled "Dear Mom and Dad."

Dedicated on Memorial Day 2003,
the statue reflects a soldier faced with the dilemma
of writing home to his family.
What can he say about what he's doing
that they will understand?

The words 
Dear Mom and Dad
are written.
Now what?
He can't tell them what he is seeing.
He can't tell them what he is doing.
His eyes
see a foreign land.
His heart 
sees the other side of the world.
Doug Scott

A documentary was made:

Celebrities read letters written home by American soldiers
stationed in Vietnam.
The movie includes newsreel footage,
newscasts, veterans' home movies,
and original music enjoyed during that time.

One can,
"Hear the music through their ears.
See the pain through their eyes.
Live the war through their words."

In the Visitors' Center,
they play this movie.
Boxes of Kleenex dot the seats.

From our volunteer, Deb,
here's some history of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial,
the first and only state park in the United States
dedicated exclusively to Vietnam veterans:

In the 1960s, Victor (Doc) Westphall
and his wife, Jeanne, purchased the land here,
north of Angel Fire -
the 800-acre Val Verde Ranch -
with the intention of building a resort area,
with golfing and skiing.

Following the death of their son,
Lieutenant Victor David Westphall III,
in Vietnam on May 22, 1968,
the Westphalls sold all the property except for the few acres here.
Using the money from the sale of the property
and from David's life insurance polices
to finance this project,
the Westphalls began construction of the
 Vietnam Veterans Peace and Brotherhood Chapel 
to honor the memory of their son and the 13 men that died with him
near Con Thien, South Vietnam.

The Westphalls dedicated the rest of their lives
to seeing this vision become a reality.
In September 1968,
construction began,
with Doc doing most of the work himself.
The Chapel was completed in 1971.

Building a memorial to honor Vietnam Veterans
was certainly not popular at this time.
The country was still involved
in a highly and increasingly unpopular war.
However, the Westphall family persevered,
relying primarily on its own financial resources.

 The mission of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park
is to remember and honor Vietnam veterans,
provide education opportunities for the public,
and maintain a haven for healing and reconciliation.

We were lucky.
The Hawthornes had their own personal history lesson
from one of the enthusiastic Park Service Volunteers.

Our Park Service Volunteer is
Deb Herbst, a 23-year veteran of the Marine Corps.

I've spoken before about Park Service Rangers
and Volunteers.
Their fervor and spirit and investment
are phenomenal and inspiring.

Deb was all that and more.

From listening to her talk about Vietnam,
I felt transported to the place.
Deb can do that.

This little bluebird kept flitting around
while Deb
regaled us with marvelous stories
about the Westphalls, Vietnam, and the Huey.
This was the best presentation from
a park service employee and/or volunteer
I've ever experienced.
I love it when someone is passionate
about what they do.

It was at this point I realized this is one
of the most powerful places I've ever visited -
this Vietnam Veterans Monument
at Angel Fire, NM.

And I want to do this place justice.
I don't know that I can.

Here, the pain and loss of the Vietnam War
shakes you to your soul.
It is a raw and sobering pain.

 This Bell Iroquois UH-1 is the most widely used helicopter
in the world and its service in Vietnam makes it the most recognized.

During the Vietnam War,
numerous advances in aviation were made.
Pilots were forced to develop amazing flying skills.
Due to their mobility, versatility, and maneuverability,
Hueys took the place of the traditional cavalry,
and helicopters evolved into an
essential asset on the battlefield.
Huey missions included troop transport, 
ferrying cargo, air assault, and medical evacuation.
One veteran stated, "The saddest moment of my life
is when I heard a Huey flying away
and I wasn't on it."

In the jungles of Vietnam,
Hueys were able to reach wounded soldiers
and fly them to a hospital within one hour,
thus increasing survival rates.
Their 4-man crew consisted of 
a pilot, a co-pilot, a gunner, and a medic.

During the war, experimental items
were available for evaluation.
One of these experimental pieces of equipment
was a smoke apparatus for the Hueys.

This particular Huey served with the 121st AHC
as a smoke ship,
earning the name "Viking Surprise."
A smoke generator was installed on March 19, 1967,
allowing smoke to be produced from a ring of nozzles
around a turbine exhaust using a reservoir of oil.

One of the first smoke ships in Vietnam,
this Huey was used to provide cover for ground operations.
When troops were inserted,
the Hueys went in first and laid down a layer of smoke
around the landing zone. 
The smokeship was followed by a pair of gunships
firing to clear the area.
If the wind was light,
the smoke would stay close to the ground
for as long as five minutes,
giving the troops time to unload.

In March 1967, the 175th AHC
was inserting troops in the Mekong Delta.
On  March 26, 1967, 
only six days after the smoke apparatus was installed,
Viking Surprise assisted in a rescue mission.
At LZ Alpha, two battalions were ambushed and a Huey was shot down.  Two Hueys that attempted rescue were also shot down.  Two companies sent in to secure the LZ were pinned down and all troops needed immediate evacuation.

Viking Surprise was requested to assist.
By the time it arrived, 13 helicopters were down.
The crew had never used the smoke apparatus before
and it was untested. 
The smoke generator was expected 
to be good for 4-6 smokings.

Viking Suprise flew in and put smoke down,
allowing four rescue ships to safely land.
The smoke kept drifting away,
so pilots Jerry Daly and Larry McDonald
made multiple passes-
13 to be exact-
as low as 50 feet to lay down additional cover smoke.

After Viking Surprise's arrival, 
no other aircraft was shot down.
All pilots were rescued except for one.
The Huey went back the next morning
and the soldiers found the last man
and brought him to safety.

Viking Surprise returned to the base badly damaged,
with 135 bullet holes,
6 going through the pilot's compartment.
It was rebuilt in 
Corpus Christi, Texas,
then returned to Vietnam for a second tour of duty
 with the 118th AHC.
After nine months, the aircraft was returned 
to the United States.
It was stored until 1976 
when the New Mexico National Guard acquired it.
In 1999, it came to the Memorial
from the New Mexico National Guard.

Mr. Hawthorne peaks into the Huey.

We learned from Deb
that this property is on a spiritual healing line,
stretching from the north to that mountain in the distance
and stretching through the midst of this Memorial.
This is sacred ground.

At the dedication of the Memorial,
a Catholic priest was all set to officiate.
The people wanted an Indian Spiritual Healer
for the ceremony.
When the priest was in charge,
there were torrential rains.
Now, whenever a Medicine Man
is on point,
the rains go around this area.
The rains are held at bay
 until the event/ceremony is over.

After the event/ceremony is over,
and the Shaman exits,
then it rains.

The chapel soars out over the mountain side.

My heart soars,
for these Veterans and their families.

These bricks on either side of the walkway
commemorate all veterans.
The dates reflect the dates of service.
Two stars denote Killed in Action.
One star signifies Missing in Action.

There are four bricks at the right before the visitor center entrance.
These four bricks honor the founders,
the Westphall family.

There are sixteen bricks on the left 
to honor David Westphall and the men killed with him
in the Con Thien Ambush.
It was originally believed 13 men were killed.
It was later determined 16 men were killed.

New bricks are added every September 
when volunteers devote an entire Saturday to the project.

According to the Vietnam Memorial's website,
"The Chapel was dedicated on May 22, 1971, the third anniversary of the death of 1st Lt. David Westphall.  It was the first major memorial created to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War, and inspired the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, which was completed over ten years later, in 1982.

Doc Westphall dedicated his life to the Memorial.  He lived in an apartment on site, and his entire purpose was honoring his son and the more than 58,000 others who died in Vietnam.  He reached out to the families that had lost their loved ones, and welcomed home the 'maimed in body and spirit.'  In his own words, "we who must, will do what we can to encourage humankind to preserve rather than to destroy."

Over the years,
 Doc and the David Westphall Veterans Foundation
sought permanent sources of funding.
In 1982, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
made a commitment for funds
 and ownership was turned over to them.
In 1985, they broke ground 
on a badly needed Visitor Center. 
The design was considered very carefully 
due to the distinctive design of the chapel.
The result was a primarily underground structure.
From the valley floor
all that is visible
is the chapel and the flag triad.
In 2009-2010,
the facility was completely renovated,
new spaces and new displays were added.
Inside the visitor center is 
the ubiquitous gift shop,
a movie room showing the HBO documentary,
"Dear America:  Letter Home From Vietnam,"
 educational exhibits, 
and research library with computers.
In 1998, the DAV withdrew support
 and returned ownership the the DWVF.

In 2004 the DWVF approached
the state of New Mexico
seeking a new source of funding.
On Veterans Day, 2005,
 the site became Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park.
It is the only state park in New Mexico 
that does not charge a fee.
A condition of the transfer requires the chapel
to remain open 24 hours a day.
When Doc was building it,
he began locking the doors at night.
One morning,
he returned to discover a note
scrawled on a piece of scrap plywood.
It said,
"Why did you lock the doors when I needed to come in?"

Since then,
the doors have never been locked.
Improvements since New Mexico State Parks 
assumed ownership include
renovations to the visitor center and chapel.
In 2007, the amphitheater was built.
It now hosts all our special ceremonies.

Any ceremonies or events
need a Medicine Man or Spiritual Healer for optimum enjoyment.
Otherwise don't count on weather to suit.
Just sayin'.

This is uplifting.
Which it was meant to be.

View from above.
The wind is gusting.
And there's a little dirt devil down below.

Doc Westphall and a few friends traveled to Vietnam in 1994.
To Con Thien -
the ambush site where Doc's son, David, was killed
May 22, 1968.
Before departing, Doc took a handful of Angel Fire soil
to scatter at the site of the ambush.
He brought a handful of Con Thien soil
back home, to Angel Fire,
and mixed it in at this site.
It was found that the two soils
had the same composition.
Translated, Con Thien means "Hill of Angels."
On April 24, 1994, Dr David Westphall
gathered a handful of soil from this spot
and on May 2, 1994, scattered it at the ambush site in Vietnam
where Lt. Victor David Westphall, III lost his
life on May 22, 1968.
Dr. Westphall returned with earth from the ambush
scene and mixed it here with New Mexico soil on May 5, 1994.

Doc and Jeanne Westphall are buried
in this sacred land.
Doc's faithful companion, Annie,
whose bones were found during the construction
of the amphitheater
was moved to this fenced-in cemetery.
Their son, David,
is buried at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe.

Riders from "Run For The Wall"
 built the fence, planted the grass and trees,
and laid the sandstone for the walkway in 2006.
Click on the Blue 3 on  Run For The Wall
for Eagle's Nest,
just a bit north of here.

Here's Jeanne Westphall's grave site.

Jeanne V. Westphall
July 15, 1915
August 01, 2004
Beloved wife, mother, and grandmother
Founder of the Memorial

And here's Doc's stone.

Dr. Victor M. Westphall
October 13, 1913
July 22, 2003

Friend to Veterans
Visionary of  Peace

Doc staffed the memorial daily,
reaching out to grieving families
and welcoming veterans home.

When Doc passed away on July 22, 2003,
he was buried with full military honors
 just yards from the Chapel.
He is remembered as a man who honored Vietnam veterans
at a time when few recognized their sacrifice or suffering.

Victor W Westphall
Lt US Navy
World War II
Oct 13, 1913    Jul 22, 2003
Doc   Thanks for easing our burdens

Moving on to the Chapel:
The top plaque:

Vietnam Veterans
Peace and Brotherhood Chapel

May 22, 1971
Dr. Victor Westphall
Jeanne V. Westphall
Walter Douglas Westphall


Greed plowed cities desolate
Lusts ran snorting through the streets
Pride reared up to desecrate
Shrines and there were no retreats
So man learned to shed the tears
With which he measures out his years
David Westphall

At the sight of the heavenly throne
Ezekiel fell on his face
But the Voice of God commanded
"Son of man stand upon your feet
And I will speak with you"
If we are to stand on our feet
in the presence of God
What then
Is one man that he should
debase the dignity of another
David Westphall

to the 
Vietnam Veterans 
Bill Richardson

We walked down to the amphitheater of the Chapel.

Here's the inside of the Chapel.
Arrangements at the base commemorate fallen soldiers.
There are boxes of Kleenex, readily available.

Upon entering the Chapel,
there are 13 photographs of soldiers displayed.
On rotation.
There's a binder describing this:

Dear Visitor,
Each month the photographs and biographies in the Peace and Brotherhood Chapel are rotated to display soldiers from different states.  The order of states is alphabetical.

This binder contains the biographies of the soldiers that are on display here in the Chapel.  1st LT. Victor David Westphall's photo is the only photo that does not rotate.
  He is on constant display.

Here at the Memorial we believe that we are the keepers of a tradition that honors Veterans while providing them a haven in which to heal and remember those who were lost.

David Westphall Veterans Foundation
Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park 

Dec. 24, 1991
From the Pen of Dr. Westphall:


First Lieutenant Westpahll, from New Mexico, was one of thirteen Marines whose death in the Republic of Vietnam provided the immediate impetus for founding the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel and, in turn, the DAV Vietnam Veterans National Memorial.

At 5:20 on the afternoon of May 22, 1968, Company B., 1st Battalion, 4th Marines was ambushed while on patrol between Con Thien and the DMZ by a numerically superior force of North Vietnamese Army Regulars.

The attack was repulsed by the men of Bravo who inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, but eleven of the Company were killed on field of battle and 29 wounded.  Sergeant Roger Boyd, from Illinois, sustained wounds so grievous that he died the following day.  Lance Corporal Jerry A. Longtine, from Minnesota, followed him in death on May 24, bringing the death toll to thirteen.

It happens that, as the founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel, I had early on determined that there must be thirteen photos in the Chapel, that the cross therein must be 13 feet high, and that a 13 star flag (the original flag of our nation) would be flown there.  I was born October 13, 1913.

A year and a half later, I learned from Sergeant Tom McKinney, the 1st Sergeant of Bravo Company, that eleven had died on that May 22 field of battle.  I intuitively rejected in my mind the figure of eleven.  Two days later, another letter from Sergeant McKinney reveled that two others had died shortly after being removed from that field of battle.  This total of thirtten was the precise number that had earlier been formulated in my mind.  This time of revealment was, perhaps, the most sublime moment of my life.

Among the slain was my son, First Lieutenant Victor David Westphall, III, from New Mexico who commanded 1st Platoon.  My wife, Jeanne, along with myself and our surviving son and only other child, Walter Douglas, late that same summer of 1968, founded the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel.  By inspiration and design, from the beginning, the Chapel was dedicated to all Vietnam Veterans:  the living, the dead, and the maimed in body and spirit.  This memorial, located at Angel Fire, New Mexico, was the first anywhere dedicated to all Vietnam Veterans.  Later, the thrust of its consecration was broadened to include the veterans of all our nation's wars.

The other dead from Bravo company were:
  • Private First Class Davis F. Brown, Florida
  • Captain and Company Commander Robert E. Harris, Kentucky
  • Private First Class Clyde Hamby, California
  • Lance Corporal Denver Joseph Berkheimer, Ohio
  • Lance Corporal Rolando Hernandez, Texas
  • Private First Class Ray Williams, Georgia
  • Private First Class Alejandro Diaz, New York
  • Private First Class Williams C. Hamacher, New Jersey
  • Lance Corporal Charles Kirkland, Missouri 
  • Private First Class James R. Joshua, Alabama
It is noteworthy that each of the thirteen was from a different state.

First Lieutenant Victor David Westphall III was the scion of my wife, Jeanne, and myself of Angel Fire, New Mexico.  We called him by his middle name, David, just as we did his brother, Walter Douglas,  Douglas, an Air Force Captain, was also a Vietnam Veteran, having flown jet tankers into Saigon on refueling missions.  David and Douglas were very close.

At Highland High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, David was an outstanding student and athlete.  In a statewide test of Academic Aptitude, he scored 98 percentile.  this meant that he made a better score than 97 percent of the 7000 students who took the test.  He was an all-state football halfback and equaled the state 100 yard dash record of 9.8 seconds.  He was even better at shorter distances.  In practice his coach timed him at 5.3 seconds.  This was within a tenth of a second of the existing world record.

David played the piano well enough to compost music as he played, and also played the guitar.  He was a writer of considerable skill in both poetry and prose.  His essay, "The Battle of Glorieta: Its Importance in the Civil War,"  son posthumously an award of one hundred dollars for the best article to appear in  'The New Mexico Historical Review' for the year 1968.  This was the first money allocated to construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel.

In the summer of 1959, David attended the Marine Corps platoon leaders training program at Quantico, Virginia, where he earned the highest physical fitness score in the entire battalion.  He was also on the honor squad of the honor company.  That fall he joined the Marine Corps and was immediately singled out at the San Diego Marine Corp Recruit Depot for the important position of platoon right guard.  He reported to his parents:  "I'm responsible for, and hold almost the power of life and death, for a platoon of seventy."

In September of 1963, he completed his tour of duty as a Marine and enrolled at the Univercity of Montana at Missoula.  Be January 23, 1967, he had earned his bachelor's degree and enrolled in the 43rd officer candidate class at Quantico, Virginia.  Here he continued his singular record of achievement by being first in his platoon in military skills.  Of the 824 candidates who started the course. 573 finished.  Of these he ranked eleventh, so easily qualified for a regular commission, which he received on March 22nd.

Following advanced training, David enjoyed a month's leave with his parents at their home near Angel Fire, New Mexico.  He arrived in DaNang, Republic of Vietnam, on the last day of October, 1967, and was assigned to command 1st platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines.  Ironically, this was the identical outfit in which he had earlier, in Hawaii, been a private in the rear rank.

A full account of his life is relanted in "David's Story:  A Casualty of Vietnam', which I wrote in 1981.

Victor Westphall, PhD
Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Next, we moseyed over to the Visitors Center.

A Memorial Rises

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."
Dr. Victor Westphall
A labor of love,
the Westphalls sold all but 5 acres of their 800-acre
property to construct the Memorial.
The soaring chapel was completed in 1971
through the work of Doc, his son, Walter, and volunteers.

The Chapel's unique and timeless design 
was the vision of Doc and Santa Fe architect, Ted Luna.

As a New Mexico State Park,
the Memorial underwent major renovations 
from 2007-2010,
including the addition of an amphitheater.
The park continues to serve as a venue
for healing and remembrance.

A Son's Sacrifice
"My fellow citizens pay the taxes to support me,
and I intend to be worth the pay."
- David Westphall

"As matters developed, he was to give his life to earn his pay."
 - Doc Westphall, David's father

Victor David Westphall III was born in 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Raised in Albuquerque, David played football, ran track, and wrote poetry and prose.  He attended both the University of New Mexico and the University of Montana, graduating with a degree in Spanish in 1966.  Commissioned as an officer in 1967, he served in Vietnam as platoon leader of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Division.

"...  If we are to stand on our feet in the presence of God,
what, then, is one man
 that he should debase the dignity of another."
- An excerpt of David's writing.

David was killed in an ambush near Con Thien, 
South Vietnam on May 22, 1968.
He is buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe, NM.

A Father's Journey
The name Con Thien translates to "hill of angels,"
making the Memorial's location in Angel Fire
all the more meaningful.

In 1994, Doc and his son, Walter Douglas,
took a trip to Vietnam 
to visit the site where David was killed.

At the ambush site at Con Thien, 
Doc gathered a handful of soil 
to take back to Angel Fire.
He had also brought earth from the Memorial
to leave at the site.

When Doc returned to Angel Fire,
he scattered the soil he brought from Con Thien.
A marker on the grounds commemorates that
special moment in the Memorial's history.

Con Thien - "Hill of Angels"

Bravo Company fought a fierce battle
 and suffered heavy casualties, 
but after 20 minutes, the North Vietnamese withdrew.

On May 22, 1968,
Bravo Company advanced toward the village
of Phu Loc.
As they moved through the knee-high grass
toward a low rise, 
enemy soldier lay in wait.

Hit suddenly with devastating machine gun,
mortar, and grenade fire,
Bravo company radioed for air and artillery support.
As David rushed to move the platoon forward,
he was struck and killed by machine gun fire.
Within minutes, 15 other Marines were killed and 27 wounded.

The firefight at Con Thien that killed David Westphall
was one of many fought there.
 U.S. Marines battled the North Vietnamese Army 
for nearly three years to control Con Thien,
a strategic location near the border
of North and South Vietnam.

The Memorial in Four Decades

"I want people who visit [the Memorial] ...
to be reminded that they forget the lessons of
Vietnam at their peril."

1968 - David Westphall is killed at Con Thien in May.  Construction of the Chapel begins in September.

1971 - The Chapel completed in May

1978 - The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) pledges support for the memorial.

1982 - DAV assumes ownership of the site.

1968 - The Visitor Center is completed.

1987 - Congress recognizes the national significance of the Westphall Memorial

1998 - The David Westphall Veterans Foundation (formed in 1988) assumes ownership of the Memorial.

2005 - New Mexico State Parks manages the Memorial, the only state park in the U.S. dedicated to the Vietnam War.

2007-2010  -  Significant renovation occurs, including a new amphitheater and exhibits.

Doc Westphall.

Begun and held at the City of Washington
 on Tuesday, the sixth day of January,
one thousand nine hundred and eighty-seven.

Joint Resolution
 To recognize the Disabled American Veterans
 Vietnam Veterans National Memorial
as a memorial of national significance.

Whereas in August, 1968, following the tragic death of their eldest son and brother, First Lieutenant Victor Davis [sic] Westphall, III, in the southeast Asian conflict, Dr. and Mrs. Victor Westphall and their younger son, Douglas, began construction of a memorial chapel at Angel Fire Recreation Area, near Eagle Nest, New Mexico, to honor Vietnam veterans;

Whereas the chapel was opened in 1971 as a memorial to all Vietnam veterans:  the living, the dead, and the maimed in body and spirit;

Whereas the Disabled American Veterans and other interested persons have contributed much financial assistance toward the chapel;

Whereas in September, 1982, the Disabled American Veterans established a non-profit corporation to improve and perpetuate the chapel;

Whereas the chapel was rededicated and named the Disabled American Veterans Vietnam Veterans National Memorial in May, 1983;

Whereas the chapel has become known to millions of people in this Nation and abroad through extensive publicity in the national and international news media;

Whereas the chapel has inspired the construction of memorials to Vietnam veterans throughout the United States, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.;

Whereas the chapel has received an award for architectural excellence from the New Mexico Society of Architects:

Whereas Dr. Westphall has received the New Mexico Medal of Merit in recognition of his services in connection with the chapel and its programs over the years;

Whereas  to many persons, especially Vietnam veterans, the chapel is literally sacred; and

Whereas the chapel has served for more than 15 years as a national shrine without benefit of an official national designation,

Now, therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Disabled American Veterans Vietnam Veterans National Memorial near Eagle Nest, New Mexico, is hereby recognized as a memorial of national significance, and the President is requested to issue a proclamation commemorating the occasion of this recognition and saluting the efforts of those individuals who have made the creation and continued existence of the Memorial possible.

It would have been nicer if they had spelled
David Westphall's name correctly
and I also have issues with referring to the Vietnam War
as a "southeast Asian conflict."

Approved November 13, 1987
by Ronald Reagan.

War in Lives

"Vietnam was what we had instead of happy childhoods."
-Michael Herr, writer

The Human costs of war are staggering 
and not confined just to a battlefield.

Soldiers on the front lines,
families back home, returning veterans -
all suffered the impacts of the Vietnam War daily,
and many still do.

War in Place
"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."
-Ambrose Bierce, author

Located on the Indochina Peninsula east of Laos,
Cambodia, and Thailand, 
the geography of Vietnam consists 
of lowlands, hills, and densely forested highlands.

American soldiers deployed 
throughout Vietnam
shared searing images of river deltas,
jungles, exotic animals, and endless rain.

A Special Place
The location of the Memorial is no accident.
This place between Angel Fire and Eagle Nest
had a unique link to David Westphall and his family.

Angel Fire was the last place that David visited prior to deploying to Vietnam.  Before leaving, he donated books to the local school library.  He was unable to part with his favorite childhood book, 'Wings for Per.'  David brought it to his mother, saying, "I can't give this book's worth a million other[s]..."

This book had a haunting, prophetic message:
"Then I will fly up into the clear, washed air of spring and soar over the eagle's nest and over my home under the crag.  Mother will stand in front of the house and clasp her hands in wonder.  She will say, 'Look, Per has wings.' "
-Wings for Per by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire

Low Bird With High Bird Coverage
The low bird was sometimes a UH-1 (Huey) as depicted in the carving.  At other times it might have been the larger CH-3 (Jolly Green Giant) helicopter.  The low bird flew at tree top or roof top level to drop off or pick up troops.  Observe the two soldiers about to exit the low bird.  The high birds could be a mixture of helicopter types.  In this carving the middle bird is a CH-3 and the top bird is a UH-1.  They flew at a little high altitude over the landing zone.  This was done so they could be a distraction to those on the ground as the low bird carried out its mission.  The high birds were also there to rescue the low bird in the event of trouble.

Man Is; Therefore, War Is

In their book "The Nature of War"
  John Keegan and Joseph Darracott state:

Man has always entertained the ideal of a world without war.  But despite the noblest efforts to contain and abolish war forever, it appears to be an unavoidable aspect of the human condition, perhaps even the prevailing climate interrupted only by short periods of peace.

"I have always heard it said," once wrote Luigi da Porto, an Italian historian of the 16th century, "that peace brings riches; riches brings pride; pride brings anger; anger brings war; war brings poverty; poverty brings humanity; humanity brings peace, and so the world's affairs go around."

There is also a display of woodcut prints in the visitors center.
These woodcut prints represent the more poignant visual remembrances and symbolic representations of the Vietnam war experience of Don Schol, a soldier/artist in the Vietnam War.  Schol was a combat officer in charge of a team of four soldiers, all professional artists working for the Army Office of Military History.  All of the team's works produced during their tour of duty in Vietnam are part of the Army War Art Collection in Washington, D.C. Each woodcut print has been carved, using traditional woodcarving chisels, and printed by hand on rice paper.

Schol was appointed the head of a team of combat artists who from October 1967 to April 1968 crisscrossed Vietnam to paint, sculpt, shoot pictures and, like every other soldier, try to survive  - which posed the biggest challenge.


"Our job," Schol says, "was to document the war like no other war had ever been documented"

As soon as they arrived, Schol and his team of artists hooked up with the 3rd brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, the same unit depicted in "Apocalypse Now."  Death arrived quickly.

"More so than battlefields with bodies lying all around, it was the existential moments that always went the deepest," Schol says.  "For me, seeing an individual at the moment of death was the hardest."  It was also an existential moment to have someone shoot at him, which he says made the war "very, very personal"

Schol remembers a moment with the 25th Infantry when he was visiting soldiers huddled in a tent.  He left, and no more than a minute later, watched a mortar round engulf the tent, killing everyone inside.





"Going Home"

"At Rest"

"Time Will Tell"

"Either - Or"
The symbolism of Vietnam -
a people hopelessly torn by competing ideologies.

"Night Perimeter"

"Take Cover"

"Angel of Mercy"




"War Weary"

"Thoughts of Home"

Three Servicemen
Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The height of U.S. involvement in Vietnam was in 1968 and the first half of 1969.  The number of American troops in the country reached a peak of 543,000.  In 1968 alone, more than 14,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam.

Key Turning Points
  • 1959  War breaks out between North and South Vietnam.  US military personnel begin arriving.  There are 32o00 in Vietnam by 1962.
  • 1963  The American-backed South Vietnamese government is overthrown.  There are 16,000 US personnel present.
  • 1964  Congress grants President Johnson authority to escalate US involvement in Vietnam.
  • 1965  The bombing of North Vietnam begins.  There are 184,000 troops present by year's end.
  • 1968  North Vietnam launches the Tet Offensive, the largest military operation to date.  Troop numbers peak in 1969 at 543,000.
  • 1970  Anti-war violence at Kent State University leaves four students dead.  US troop begin to draw down.  40,024 soldiers have been killed by January 1, 1970
  • 1973  The US enters the Paris Peace Accords.  24,000 US troops remain in Vietnam by end of 1972.
  • 1975  Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese Army.  By end of war over 58,000 troops here.

Paul Burge, Sculptor
James Anderson, Art Design

This Memorial is Dedicated
to all Veterans and Their Families.

Out of the many stories our guide told us,
this particular one was so poignant to me.

A nineteen-year old woman,
Mary Ellen Norwood,
volunteered for the Red Cross in the
 medical records department in the hospital
at Clark Air Base in the Phillipines.

In 1973,
as the first group of American POWs had been released
by the North Vietnamese and were headed home.
The POWs' first stop was the hospital
at Clark Air Base in the Philippines,
 where they would undergo medical exams
and treatment before returning stateside.

Even though Mary Ellen
 didn't have to work that fateful day,
she made it a point to be at Clark Air Base
when the Freedom Plane
delivered the first soldiers home.
She went, in her words, "to witness history."

Mary Ellen Norwood
got the signatures of those men coming into Clark.

"It was a long time ago, but I seem to remember standing at the door of the hospital as the POWs were coming in.  Some were on stretchers; some were in wheelchairs; and some walked in.  I have no idea what possessed me to ask some of them for their autographs, but I'm glad I did!

All in all, it was a great day, and I remember feeling
 so patriotic and so grateful for their sacrifices."

Mary Ellen Norwood donated
 these autographed pages to the Memorial in 2009.
She resides in Colorado.

"Vietnam is a country, not a war."
- Lee Van Bang, former Vietnamese Ambassador to the US

For the United States, Vietnam was a young person's war.
The average age of American soldiers in Vietnam was 19;
in World War II it was 26.

From our volunteer,
we learned that in this remote area,
the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial 
attracts about 70,000 to 80,000 visitors a year.

I had never heard of it.

The Vietnam Memorial 
off the easily accessible Jersey Turnpike,
she told us got about 17,000 to 18,000 visitors.

Deb explained that she'd just finished up bootcamp 
and her brother was leaving Saigon
when it was destroyed.
As the plane went up,
her brother watched the airport engulfed in fire.

We were at the Memorial 
on May 24,  
44 years and 2 days
after David Westphall was killed in Vietnam.

I'm so glad we stopped here.

This was a hard post to write.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is amazing, Rosie. Thanks for posting it.

vera charles

Linda in Maine said...

I'm sure it was difficult, but you put together the most splendid and poignant post I've ever read on the internet. It brought the turmoil of the Viet Nam war back to the forefront for me. Thank you!

Marilyn said...

Thank you for writing this post. You managed to capture the spirit and meaning of the place.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thank you all for commenting.

Walter Westphall said...

Dear Rosie: This is from Walter Westphall, the surviving founder of the Angel Fire Memorial. Many thanks for your wonderful blog about the Memorial. I am literally stunned by how spectacular your blog is. The narrative and the pictures are equally incredible. You captured so much about the Memorial in such a short time. You have truly captured the power of the Memorial very well. Many thanks for visiting and for taking the time to prepare this truly valuable and unusual post. Best Regards,
Walter Westphall

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Dear Mr. Westphall,

I thank you, Mr. Westphall, for acknowledging my mediocre efforts in commenting about the profound story of your family and the ultimate sacrifice paid by David Westphall.

I was completely humbled by this Memorial and the stories it told.

I hope it brings you the peace and healing that I'm sure it has brought to so many others.

Thank you again for taking time to read and comment.

Rosie Hawthorne

Marilyn said...

Rosie, I can tell you that your post brought tears to my eyes. I first read this post yesterday and it is still on my mind today. That is powerful writing, my friend. And that is a powerful memorial - it almost makes it worth a trip out west just to visit there.

Unknown said...

Rosie you did an amazing job on this post. I love how you put your soul into this like LT. Westphall III put his life on the line for everyone he cared about and didn't know. I will have to visit this Memorial now.

Richard Dickerson said...

Ms Hawthorne - Rosie:
Your blog about the Memorial is greatly appreciated. As a Director of the David Westphall Foundation I would like to send you a token of the Board’s appreciation for your effort. If you will contact me with your address I’ll get it in the mail. Thanks again and come back and see us again.

Richard Dickerson
505 660-2384

Tom Turnbull said...

OMG Ms. Rosie Thank you for such a thorough explainatin of our facility. It was our goal to get this (your) message to the visitor. You got it! Now you have posted an invitation to the world for us. I write this with tears as it reminds me so vividly of the 5years I spent as the park manager. One can leave the Memorial but the Memorial never leaves you... thank you again God bless
Tom Turnbull, Manager 2006-2010..

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Mr. Dickerson and Mr. Turnbull,
I am honored and I thank you both.

Thank you to all who commented on this post. If you ever get the chance, you owe it to yourself to go to the Angel Fire Vietnam Veterans Memorial.