Dr. Victor Westphall sold all but five of his 800 acres to finance a memorial for his son.
Given the temper of the times & the manner of his son’s death, his was not a popular decision.
David Westphall was killed in an ambush near Con Thien, South Vietnam, on May 22, 1968. It was a widely-denounced war and the country was in no mood for public grieving.
But that mattered not to Victor Westphall.
The Chapel, located on a knoll with a commanding & scenic view overlooking Angel Fire, New Mexico, was dedicated on May 22, 1971, the 3rd anniversary of the death of 1st Lt. David Westphall III.
It was the first major memorial created to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War, and inspired the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., which was completed over ten years later, in 1982.
I first discovered this peaceful spot by chance in 2008, and made it a point to revisit it once again, just recently.
The Vietnam War was by far the defining event of my generation. To be sure, there were deep rooted cultural divisions fueled by numerous liberation movements & tragic political assassinations, but it was the war – whether you were for or against, whether you went or not – that tore us apart.