The Memorial is unique not just because it was the first effort on a national scale to memorialize Vietnam veterans. Among it other distinctions, it was the first Vietnam memorial to show not just the names of deceased Vietnam veterans but also to display pictures of those dead veterans in cases where the family had supplied a picture for display. Another major distinction for the Memorial is that for most of its history it has included a unique visitors center that incorporates displays and photographs that have been an invaluable supplement to the Chapel. The underground visitor center was begun in 1985 and completed in 1986. It is underground so as not to distract from the magnificent architectural lines of the Chapel. The visitor center has served as a valuable place where veterans can share their experiences and memories with fellow veterans and with family members. It has a truly valuable power to heal and to educate.
The original design of the visitor center was very successful but a few years ago it was decided after 20-years the interior of the building needed to be updated and reconfigured. Accordingly, New Mexico State Parks increased the size of the building from 6,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet. The new design provided additional valuable archive space, work space, and storage space. In addition to rest rooms and office space, the major features of the new visitor center are a video room, display rooms for themed memorabilia and informational panels, a computer room and library, a conference room and space for the Foundation’s gift shop. The visitor center continues to be a valuable supplement to the Chapel and Memorial grounds. Together, they provide a unique place for gaining insight into the Vietnam War and a valuable resource for healing of veterans and familites.