As we continued our stay in Eagle Nest, one day we drove ten miles to visit the nearby town of Angel Fire. The name Angel Fire comes from the Moache Ute Indians in the 1780’s. During their autumn celebration they noticed red and orange flickering in the northern sky. They saw it as a blessing of the fire gods and named their yearly celebration “Angel Fire”. Years later Kit Carson mentioned seeing the Angel Fire at dawn and dusk and accredited the glow to sunlight striking frost on the branches of trees.
Eagle Nest and Angel Fire are very popular ski resort areas in the winter and fishing in the summer.
Some of the TV series “Lonesome Dove” was filmed around Angel Fire. We drove to the location where the closing cabin scene was filmed here at Black Lake and meadow. The property is now privately owned and we could not get close for a great picture.
After lunch at the local barbecue restaurant, we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This Memorial was the first major Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the United States. It was built by Dr. Victor and Jeanne Westphall to honor their son, 1st Lt. David Westphall who died in combat in a 1968 ambush in Vietnam. In 1994 Dr. Westphall visited the site in Vietnam where his son died. He took with him a handful of soil from the Memorial to scatter at the site of the ambush. He also brought back Vietnamese soil from the site and scattered it at the Memorial.
This Memorial received national attention in the 1970’s and was the inspiration for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C in 1982. In 1987 the Angel Fire Memorial was recognized as a Memorial of National Significance.
Today the Memorial is maintained by the David Westphall Veterans Foundation and the New Mexico Department of Veterans Affairs.
At the entrance to the free Memorial is a Huey helicopter which served two tours in Vietnam. On its first tour it was badly damaged with 135 bullet holes, repaired and sent for a second tour.
Along the sidewalk leading to the Visitors Center are sponsored bricks with names of veterans. The dates are dates of service. Two stars signify a person killed in action and one star is missing in action. New bricks are added every September and bricks were being added while we were there.
This statue is of a soldier in the field trying to write a letter to keep in touch with family back home. It is called “Dear Mom and Dad”.
The Visitors Center has exhibits and a very moving ninety minute HBO documentary titled “Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam”. It was extremely moving; there are no words to describe the power of the movie.
The Visitors Center has over 2,000 photos.
Just like the Memorial in Washington, D.C., notes and mementos are left around the Memorial. They collect them and put them on display in the Visitors Center. One brief, heartfelt note caught my attention. Well said!
This painting shows a shackled eagle, representing the frustration and futility of being captured. The Statue of Liberty in the distance and sunshine represents freedom and a ray of hope for the future.
In a separate area is the Peace and Brotherhood Chapel which displays a photo of David Westphall and rotating photos of thirteen men also killed in the ambush.
Many Native American volunteered and died in Vietnam.
Next up: A drive on the Enchanted Circle