ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A local veteran has spent hours each day for the past five months putting together a unique Vietnam veterans memorial wall that will be open to the public soon.
Joe Salas, who served in Vietnam in 1966-67, knows firsthand the pain and the pride New Mexico's veterans experienced fighting for their country in Vietnam more than 40 years ago.
“You see a lot of individuals getting injured, getting shot, getting killed, and you worry about those things on a regular day,” Salas said.
It is something he doesn't want the rest of New Mexico to forget.
Nearly 400 New Mexicans fought and died in Vietnam and Salas helped collect their names and faces for a display at the New Mexico Veterans' Memorial Visitor Center that is 15 feet long and nearly 5 feet tall.
Salas says with the help of his granddaughters, he spent about six hours a day for the past five months creating it. His process involved putting up each picture, each name and even where that name is located on the Vietnam memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
"This wall is going to be a healing process for a lot of veterans,” Salas said.
Mary Cox, the curator at the New Mexico Veterans' Memorial Foundation agrees. She said, "I think seeing the names on the wall is one thing, but seeing the pictures, especially if they are local ones from the state, I think it's going to be very emotional.”
Cox said this all started when the Vietnam veterans foundation in Washington, D.C., asked for the pictures. Once the collection began, she knew she wanted to do something locally.
“There are a lot of things that haven't been spoken about the Vietnam War in our classrooms. A lot of people are starting to forget,” Salas said.
But with each name and each picture, Salas is working to remind people.
The New Mexico Veterans' Memorial Foundation will have a dedication ceremony for the Vietnam veterans’ wall Friday, Sept. 20.
The New Mexico Veterans' Memorial is located at 1100 Louisiana Blvd. SE in Albuquerque. The visitors center and museum are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday. Admission is free. For more information, visit nmvetsmemorial.org.
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