On December 29, 2016, the estate of Colonel Kenneth W. Hedlund (USA, Medical Corps, retired) and his wife Mary Jo Hedlund donated $100,000 to the David Westphall Veterans Foundation (Foundation). The Foundation is a support group for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire. The gift was made by the trustee of the estate, Maureen Bray, who is the sister of Mary Jo Hedlund. Realizing that the Memorial has provided valuable service for the past 47 years to veterans and the public by honoring members of our armed forces and recognizing their sacrifices, Mrs. Bray felt that the Memorial reflects the values by which Colonel and Mrs. Hedlund lived their lives.
The Memorial was founded by Dr. and Mrs. Victor Westphall following the death of their son, USMC Lt. David Westphall. He was killed in action on May 22, 1968 along with 12 comrades from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines in a battle against NVA troops east of the Marine Corps outpost at Con Thien. Other Companies of the 1st Battalion lost 4 Marines killed in action, and the Battalion suffered more than three dozen wounded in action. The Westphalls decided within a few days of David’s death that they would build a memorial dedicated to all Vietnam veterans. It was begun in September 1968 on land donated by the Westphalls, with most of the construction funded by Lt. Westphall’s insurance policies. It was the first major national effort to memorialize Vietnam veterans and inspired many subsequent memorials.
Colonel Hedlund served 30 years in the United States Army following graduation from Georgetown University Medical School. He served in Vietnam with the Army Medical Corps at the 85th Evacuation Hospital at Phu Bai. He was awarded the Bronze Star during his tour. Colonel Hedlund served at several U. S. Army hospitals. His career also included duty at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Maryland. He had research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. His service reflects steadfast dedication to veterans. Colonel Hedlund died on August 11, 2011. Mary Jo Hedlund trained as a medical secretary and worked in that role for many years at Walter Reed Army Hospital. As with her husband, she had a life-long concern about the health and wellness of soldiers. Mrs. Hedlund died on November 23, 2014.
Lt. Col. Chuck Howe (USA, retired), President of the Foundation, expressed his sincere appreciation of the gift from the estate of Colonel and Mrs. Hedlund, and to Mrs. Bray for honoring the Memorial and providing a significant financial resource for the Foundation. One of the Foundation’s purposes is to fund special needs of the Memorial and the donation will help greatly with that. Colonel Howe said that this contribution shows the merits of both the Memorial and the Foundation and that he hopes members of the public and veterans will visit in even larger numbers to see for themselves the site that inspired this contribution.
The Hedlunds’ focus on post-traumatic stress and the other needs of veterans motivated Mrs. Bray to also donate $100,000 to the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center at Angel Fire from the estate. This reflects her belief that there is great value in programs that help veterans deeply affected by the traumas they experienced. The Wellness and Healing Center conducts several retreats each year using innovative therapies to help veterans couples deal with post-traumatic stress illness.