Paperback available here.
A great white angel spreading her wings across the Moreno Valley: this is how one visitor described the memorial standing atop a windswept prominence in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Taos, New Mexico. A de-facto national Vietnam veterans memorial, built by one family more than a decade before the Wall in Washington, DC, and without aid or recognition from the US government, the chapel at Angel Fire is a testament to one young American’s sacrifice—but also to the profound determination of his family to find meaning in their loss. In The Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Angel Fire, Steven Trout tells the story of Marine Lieutenant David Westphall, who was killed near Con Thien on May 22, 1968, and of the Westphall family’s subsequent struggle to create and maintain a one-of-a-kind memorial chapel dedicated to the memory of all Americans lost in the Vietnam War and to the cause of world peace.
Focused primarily on a life lost amid our nation’s most controversial conflict and on the Westphalls’ desperate battle to keep their chapel open between 1971 and 1982, the book’s brisk and moving narrative traces the memorial’s evolution from a personal act of family remembrance to its emergence as an iconic pilgrimage destination for thousands of Vietnam veterans. Documenting the chapel’s shifting messages over time, which include a momentary (and controversial) recognition of the dead on both sides of the war, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Angel Fire spotlights one American soldier’s tragic story and the monument to hope and peace that it inspired.