During our recent trip to Angel Fire, New Mexico, I just had to drive down to road to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on our last night there.
This place has always had a special place in my heart – for obvious reasons. Both the Mystery Guest Blogger and I are veterans of that war, and of course, we both lived in Việt Nam as civilians in 2005-2006. The chapel portion of the memorial was originally built by the late Dr. Victor Westphall in memory of his son, Marine Lieutenant David Westphall who was killed in action in 1968. The memorial was first opened in 1971 – while the war was still being fought. It long predates The Wall in Washington.
The chapel is striking in its simplicity. Because the chapel is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, the building is always lit at night. Sitting on a knoll overlooking the Moreno Valley, it is truly striking. Inside is a small place where folks who lost loved ones in the war can remember them in a respectful silence. I have learned that through his grief, Dr. Westphall became as appreciative of the Vietnamese people as I have become. Before his death, he went to Việt Nam – to the site where his son died. He left a small amount of dirt from the area around the memorial, and brought back some of Việt Nam’s earth with him to mix in with New Mexico’s. Though his son died in a war on the other side of the world, Dr. Westphall became a man of peace.
Too soon I had to leave the mountains – but not before a quick prayer to tell Lt. Westphall and his father that I would soon be returning to Việt Nam. But, I shall be returning to a country, not a war.
Peace – in the mountains.