It was 50 years ago — May 22, 1968 — that U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant Victor David Westphall III, called David, was killed along with 16 other U.S. soldiers in a battle near Con Thien, South Vietnam. It was his death that prompted Jeanne and Dr. Victor Westphall to build the Vietnam Veterans Peace and Brotherhood Chapel. Dedicated on May 22, 1971, it was the first major memorial created to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. was completed over ten years later). The Westphalls wanted the memorial to honor not only soldiers who were lost in Vietnam, but of all wars.
“We decided to build an enduring symbol of the tragedy and futility of war,” Dr. Victor Westphall noted in a quote from the David Westphall Veterans Foundation website.
The crowd, which gathered under sunny skies for the annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire Monday (May 28), agreed.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Terry Middleton was one of three who survived the ambush at Con Thien. According to Jan Botkin Therkildsen, “We had 13-15 survivors with us from that Ambush (an album of photos by Ted Engelmann of the May 22, 2018, commemoration are on the David Westphall Veterans Foundation Facebook page).”