Vietnam Veterans of America
The VVA Veteran® Online
homepipeAboutpipeArchivepipeSubscribepipeContactpipevva.orgVVA gifFacebookContact
November/December 2017

Angel Fire: A New Status, A New Mission


This is a memorial for a son killed in combat,
and a revered shrine for others who risked their lives on the same battlefield.

—New Mexico Department of Veterans Services
Secretary Jack Fox

Photos: New Mexico Department of Veterans ServicesThe Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire, New Mexico, is beloved by veterans and non-veterans alike. More than 50,000 people visit the memorial annually—the vast majority are Vietnam War veterans and their families, for whom this peaceful site provides reflection, comfort, healing, and the opportunity to honor loved ones who served in the war.

But who should oversee this serene and revered site? It was built in 1971 by Victor and Jeanne Westphall as a tribute to their son, 1st Lt. David Westphall, one of sixteen Marines killed in a brutal battle three years earlier near Con Thien just south of the DMZ. They established the David Westphall Foundation to raise the funds to build a memorial to honor their son and all who served in the war.

Angel Fire may have been the first major Vietnam veterans memorial built in the United States. It received nationwide attention when ground was broken in the fall of 1968. After operating privately for thirty-four years, it was donated to New Mexico in 2005 to become a state park.

But the memorial “was never intended as a park where people camp, hike, or take part in other activities typically associated with a state park,” said Department of Veterans Services Secretary Jack Fox. “It is a solemn place for reflection. Fortunately, State Parks readily agreed with this. DVS will ensure that it will be managed as a sacred memorial to our fallen Vietnam service members and all those who sacrificed to serve in the Vietnam War.”

“New Mexicans are forever grateful for the ultimate sacrifice paid by the 58,200 Americans, including 398 New Mexicans, who lost their lives in Vietnam,” Gov. Susana Martinez said at the July 3 ceremony marking the transfer of Angel Fire to NMDVS. “This memorial will now be managed and preserved as a legacy to these heroes of Vietnam.” All current programs will be continued and will be augmented with others.

A veterans cemetery is planned for the field surrounding the Westphalls’ sweeping white memorial. It will be built by the State Veterans Cemetery Program and paid for with VA funds. The cemetery will “serve rural veterans and their families living too far from our state’s two national cemeteries—the Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe and the Fort Bayard National Cemetery in southwestern New Mexico,” according to DVS spokesman Ray Seva. Angel Fire Cemetery also will be open to out-of-state honorably discharged veterans, he said. Although it’s a state cemetery, burial qualifications will be the same as they are for national cemeteries. Tom Wagner, a Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts, will oversee management of both the memorial and the cemetery as DVS Cemetery Program Director.

Some may wish to relocate relatives who are buried elsewhere, either because Angel Fire Cemetery will be exclusively for Vietnam veterans or because those veterans were buried in places inconvenient for the families. Spouses of veterans also can be buried here. But while any Vietnam veteran in any cemetery in the country can be transferred to Angel Fire, all costs must be borne by the family or friends of the veteran.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May through October. It is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays from November to April.

For more information, see “Skyward: New Mexico’s Angel Fire” in the May/June 2014 issue. Contact the memorial directly at: Vietnam Veterans Memorial, P.O. Box 242, Angel Fire, NM 87710 or phone 575-377-2293.

Photos: New Mexico Department of Veterans Services




- Departments
University of Florida Smathers Libraries
- - -
- -

-Helping Hurricane Victims
in Florida

-Grampy’s Platoon

- -
VVA logoThe VVA Veteran® is a publication of Vietnam Veterans of America. ©All rights reserved.
8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Silver Spring. MD 20910 | www.vva.org | contact us