Dr. Victor and Jeanne Westphall are the founders of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They are the parents of U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant Victor Westphall III, who died on May 22, 1968 as a result of an enemy ambush at Con Thien. Dr. Victor said that following the death of a son or daughter who died in a war, it is up to the parents to decide how they will honor the courage and sacrifice of their child. They have decided to put up a memorial in commemoration of their son’s death and the 15 other members of the Bravo Company, who died with him.
Jeanne Westphall decided to use the money from David’s life insurance policies to create the Vietnam Veterans Peace and Brotherhood Chapel. The two went on to dedicate their whole lives to seeing their vision turn into reality. At the time, building a memorial was seen as an ambitious ordeal. The country was still involved in an unpopular war in Vietnam. But the Westphall family refused to give up on their dream. They used their own financial resources to build the memorial gradually.
The Chapel was dedicated on the special day of May 22, 1971, the third year anniversary of David’s death. The construction of the chapel garnered a lot of buzz in the media and it was recognized as the first major memorial to venerate the veterans of the Vietnam War. It also served as an inspiration for the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was finished a decade later in 1982.
Dr. Victor Westphall realized that his new purpose in life was to manage the memorial and open it to veterans, volunteers and ordinary citizens to heal their damaged bodies and spirits. For many years, he had lived in an apartment within the site. His ultimate goal was to honor not only his son, but all the 58,000 service members who died amidst the war.