Vietnam Memorial Wall replica planned for New Mexico

The state Department of Veterans Services and the Vietnam Veterans of America Northern New Mexico Chapter 996 have partnered to build a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Angel Fire alongside the Vietnam Memorial chapel and the new state veterans cemetery.

The proposed wall will replicate the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, D.C., and will display the names of 58,318 men and women who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War. Of those names, 398 belong to New Mexicans.

Moriarty’s American Legion Post 49 Commander Robert Ludwig said the exhibit will help raise awareness. Ludwig spearheaded the fundraising effort that brought the moving Vietnam Memorial Wall to Moriarty in 2016.

“It’s a great idea, because the more we can tell people about us—what we went through when we came back and how many New Mexicans died over there,” Ludwig said. “By having the wall up there, it gives people a chance to ask questions and to learn more about the Vietnam War.”

The idea for the wall project started in 2016 when Chapter 996 member Ken Dettlebach inquired about the possibility of getting a Vietnam memorial wall for the New Mexico Military Museum in Santa Fe. He contacted Santa Fe resident Arturo Canales who had been instrumental in bringing the “The Wall That Heals,” another replica wall, to Santa Fe in 2014.

Dettlebach and Canales discovered that the Vietnam Veterans’ Wall Memorial Fund was planning to sell that version of the wall to make way for a newer version, and Canales was encouraged to submit a request for it.

Jerry Martinez, Chairman for the Chapter 996 Vietnam Memorial Wall committee, says, “We submitted our proposal stating that we would offer $80,000 but we asked for two years to come up with the funds.”

When the committee learned that they would have to pay the funds up front, they decided not to pursue that path.

The committee then learned that the American GI Forum in San Antonio, Texas, had an indoor traveling wall which had been in storage for over a decade and would donate the wall to anyone who would display the wall appropriately and pay the transportation costs from San Antonio to its new location.

The committee intended to bring that wall to the Military Museum in Santa Fe for display. When they found out that space availability at the museum would not cover the 250’ length required, they decided to seek another location.

Once the wall was delivered to Angel Fire, it was found suitable only for interior display and should not be modified. At that point, the wall was transferred to the Santa Fe Military Museum as a rotating display.

After that, the committee obtained approval and authorization to construct a permanent wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Angel Fire.

When asked why it is important to build a wall in Angel Fire when there are other replica walls traveling the country and in parks across the nation, Martinez said, “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Angel Fire is the first Vietnam War era memorial in the country. It consists of a beautiful chapel, museum, and library. Recently, the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services has broken ground on a veterans’ cemetery there, which will be down the slope from the memorial in the valley. Adding a half-scale replica of the memorial wall to this historical place would ensure that the service and sacrifices made by veterans and their families will be properly honored and memorialized.”

Thomas Wagner, the former Director of the New Mexico State Veterans Cemetery program under Gov. Susana Martinez—and himself a Vietnam veteran—said the memorial “will represent the service and sacrifices made by New Mexican Veterans and their families, as well as all veterans and their families nationwide who served during that era.”

Chapter 996 hopes to raise $300,000 to construct the replica, which the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services will house, maintain and care for on-site.

The hardest thing about fundraising for this project is getting the word out, Martinez said. For more information, contact him at 505-501-2814.

A full description of the project may be found at vvachapter996.wixsite.com/memorialwall.