Photos by Janet Sailor.
State Veterans Cemetery – Angel Fire, New Mexico
“Doc Westphall’s vision that Angel Fire should be the last battlefield
for so many veterans of all wars can now come true.”
~~ Dr. Ron Milam, Vietnam Veteran and DWVF Board Member
On July 27, 2020, we held the first interment in the new Angel Fire State Veterans Cemetery, located just below the Chapel at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
In 2013, Governor Susana Martinez launched the State Rural Veterans Cemetery initiative. The David Westphall Veterans Foundation Board and Village of Angel Fire requested that Angel Fire be chosen as one of the new cemetery locations. Harry Patterson and his wife Brenda donated 10 acres of land, located adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. DWVF Board members and Village of Angel Fire representatives promoted an enthusiastic letter-writing campaign, collected thousands of signatures on petitions, and held face-to-face discussions with New Mexico State officials involved in the selection process.
On April 15, 2014, following fierce competition from locations across New Mexico, Governor Martinez announced that Angel Fire was selected as one of four proposed sites for rural veterans’ cemeteries across the state. She said: “We felt that Angel Fire was very deserving, especially with the fact that it has the first nationally recognized Vietnam memorial.”
In September 2018, Governor Martinez announced funding was available: “I’m pleased that we’ve secured full funding for the new State Veterans Cemetery in Angel Fire. All veterans have earned the right to be buried in a place which honors their service and sacrifice to our country.” Governor Martinez traveled to Angel Fire in October 2018 to join several others in dedicating the new State Veterans Cemetery. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided a $3.2 million grant to cover the initial cost of building the cemetery next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Angel Fire cemetery was the third cemetery built as a result of the Governor’s State Veterans Cemetery Initiative.
In May 2019, after the snows cleared, construction began for the Angel Fire State Veterans Cemetery. We watched with interest over the next year as the site transformed into a beautiful cemetery.
On July 27, 2020, the first interment in the new Angel Fire State Veterans Cemetery was held for Darrel Fugett, who had lived in Eagle Nest, New Mexico for many years. Mr. Fugett had volunteered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial adjacent to this new cemetery.
We are excited that the exceptional efforts of so many have culminated in bringing Dr. Victor Westphall’s vision to fruition. For many years, he wished for a Cemetery beside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that he co-founded with his wife Jeanne Westphall and son Walter Westphall, and it’s now a reality. We extend special thanks to:
- Vietnam veteran Harry Patterson (1946-2021) and his wife Brenda for donating the 10-acre site on which the cemetery is built,
- Former Governor Susana Martinez,
- New Mexico State Legislature,
- New Mexico Department of Veterans Services,
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,
- David Westphall Veterans Foundation Board members – with significant contributions from Chuck Howe, Walter Westphall, Bob Wooley, Dick Dickerson, Jay Mitchell, and Hoot Gibson,
- Village of Angel Fire, and
- Stan Samuels, Rick Sprott, and many other residents of Angel Fire and of other cities throughout the country.
About the Cemetery
The cemetery is owned by the State of New Mexico, built to national standards, and is operated by the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services. The Cemetery and Memorials Program, within the NM DVS State Benefits Division, oversees the operation of all of the State Veterans cemeteries and also of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire.
This cemetery is open to U.S. veterans and spouses or significant others and children to age 23 from all states. It will permit full burial, cremains burial, and a columbarium for urns.
The 2018 VA grant of $3.2 million covered the construction costs for a main entrance, all roads, an assembly area, landscaping. An additional $3.6 million dollars has been requested to build a permanent Committal shelter and an Administration Building.
The cemetery initially has 100 in-ground casket crypts, 100 in-ground urn gravesites, and 200 Columbarium wall niches. There is plenty of surrounding land available for negotiating future expansions.
For more information about the Angel Fire State Veterans Cemetery, you may contact Randy Myklebust, Cemetery Supervisor, at 505-225-4341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.