This beautiful drive took us through some of the most mountainous and beautiful areas of New Mexico.
We saw Wheeler Peak, the largest peak in NM, coming in at over 13,000 feet. We saw quartz and feldspar rocks that date back two billion years.
One of the highlights, for me, was returning to visit the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. When I was there, well over a decade ago, there were Native American vendors lining the oath to the bridge.
Sadly, they are no longer allowed there.
One thing that hadn't changed was the vista. The gorge is so deep that I couldn't walk to the railing and look down. I got dizzy when I tried. I still say this gorge rivals the Grand Canyon in beauty.
"In the 1960s, Dr. Victor Westphall and his wife Jeanne, purchased more than 800 acres of the Val Verde Ranch near Angel Fire, with the intention of building a ski and golf resort. Then, on May 22, 1968, their oldest son, Lt. Victor David Westphall III, was killed in an ambush in Con Thien, Vietnam, just south of the DMZ. He was buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
David's mother suggested using David's life insurance money to build a chapel to honor the memory of their son. Inspired, Doc drew out the initial sketches for the chapel and submitted them to a local Santa Fe architect for final drafting.
Construction of the Peace and Brotherhood Chapel began in September, 1968.
The vision for the Chapel soon expanded to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all Vietnam Veterans.
The chapel was completed in May, 1971 and was one of the first memorials in the US dedicated to Vietnam Veterans.
The location of the Memorial is no accident; it sits atop a hill overlooking the picturesque Moreno Valley, which is at the base of Wheeler Peak. Angel Fire was the last place David visited before deploying to Vietnam in 1967. He donated several of his books to the local school library."
The Memorial changed hands several times over the years: in 1982 the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) assumed ownership. In 1985 construction began on the visitors center and museum.
The center was completed in 1986. In 1998, the DAV turned ownership to the David Westphall Veterans Foundation.
On Veterans Day, 2005 the site officially became the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park.
In 2017, the ownership of the memorial was transferred to the NM Dept of Veterans Affairs.
Doc's original vision for the Memorial included a veterans cemetery. In 2018, the DVS broke ground on the
Angel Fire State Veterans Cemetery in the valley below the chapel.
Doc and Jeanne Westphall are both buried here on the grounds of the memorial.
It's easy to feel the sense of calm come over you as you walk this hallowed ground.
Rest In Peace and welcome home, heroes.