This Labor Day Bill and I were invited to spend the weekend at Angel Fire and participate in the annual Laying of Bricks for Veterans Memorial Walkway. We drove the back way through Mora and Guadalupita. Bill, like any other native-born boy, is concerned over the terrible forest fires we had all spring. “It’s bad” says it all. Some places the fire did not jump the road and those trees have had the advantage of the monsoon. But the ones with black all the way from the bottom to the top are going to rot, fall, and be infested with bugs. They have to remove those and we did see several trucks with cut logs. The DOT is now working on the roads where flooding is making it impossible for two cars to pass one another. The damage is overwhelming.
Back to our trip. When we finally got to Angel Fire, we stayed the night at The Lodge. It appears to be great in winter snow, but only had air conditioning cooling the lobby; the rooms did not have air conditioning.
We got up early about 7:30, and drove to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial outside of town. Already, there were cars and motorcycles filling up the parking lots. The company was made up of locals, but people also came from all over the United States for the presentation of bricks to family or friends who carried them to the path to be set. I can not say enough about the volunteers who smiled and led us through this solemn event. Even the sky cooperated, with only slight showers.
The Vietnam Veterans Peace and Brotherhood Chapel was started by Jeanne and Dr. Victor Westphall who lost their son, U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant Victor David Westphall, on May 22, 1968. The facility has grown, and is now also a Foundation, Museum and Chapel.
The State has opened a Veterans Cemetery at Angel Fire that adjoins the property.
We had the privilege of attending the Installation Day ceremony. Friends and family sit or stand while the names of the honorees are read, their bricks saluted and then presented to the family. The recipient or their representative walks to where the brick will join 6,000 others on the walkway. Each brick has the name, branch of the military, and years of service etched on it.
This memorial has changed over the years. Now it is not just for those who served in Viet Nam, but embraces all branches of the service and conflicts. There were bricks for the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korean War vets, too.
We still have missing Prisoners of War, who were also named. People could read relatives’ names and many did so with a catch in their throats and a tear in their eyes. “Some have given their very best, some finished their duty and returned, some gave their all, never to return.”
According to the information at the chapel, “Loved ones keep the faith while seeking answers.”
The ceremony lasted four and a half hours and was worth it in so many ways. The Foundation, also created by the Westphals, is open to all who serve and their families. The chapel and grounds are used by visitors for reunions, reflection, healing, and sharing of experiences. There are educational displays and ceremonies. It is also a venue for other patriotic events. Friends or family may purchase a brick and come to Installation Day in September. The Town of Angel Fire and many local organizations help by volunteering their time and talents.
Next Labor Day, check your calendar and look up Angel Fire. You might just remember a friend, relative or grandparent who told you war stories of a time gone by. Roaring Mouse, head bowed, hat off. Out.