The Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park is the first major Vietnam memorial created in the United States. Situated off United States Highway 64 in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northeastern New Mexico, the memorial serves as a special place where people can pay their respects to all the soldiers and service members who have served the country in different places around the world. It is home to several sculptures and memorabilia that remind every one of the futility and tragedy of war.
History Of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park
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. Jeanne Westphall decided to use the money from David’s life insurance policies to create the Vietnam Veterans Peace and Brotherhood Chapel. Read More
Sources of Funding for the Memorial
The David Westphall Veterans Foundation looked for permanent funding sources and set up numerous fundraising campaigns to continue and improve the operations of the memorial. In 1982, ownership was turned over to the Disabled American Veterans. The DAV created a Visitors Center, the design of which was carefully planned due to the unique structure of the chapel. They also purchased 25 acres of land, which gave room for future development.
The Visitors Center is home to a gift shop, media room, veterans room and photo gallery room. The gift shop is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In the media room, visitors can watch the documentary, Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam. The veterans room honors all KIA and MIA service members.
In 1998, the David Westphall Veterans Foundation reclaimed ownership of the memorial. They sought help from the state of New Mexico in 2004. Then Governor Bill Richardson realized the value of preserving the memorial. On Veterans Day of the following year, the site officially became the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. The foundation wanted the memorial to be free for all visitors. As part of their agreement with the state, the park continued to stay free of charge, making it the only state park in all of New Mexico that does not require visitors to pay.
Today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park consists of the Chapel, the Memorial Gardens, the Visitors Center, an amphitheater and the gravesites of its founders, Dr. Victor and Jeanne Westphall. There is also an authentic Huey Helicopter in the site called Viking Surprise, one that saw action during the Vietnam War. The memorial holds several events throughout the year and welcomes more than 45,000 visitors annually.