High above the small Rocky Mountain town of Saguache is a mysterious memorial devoted to the forgotten soldiers and civilians from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, France, and other nations who secretly fought alongside America during the war in Vietnam.
The Soldierstone memorial is a 10-foot granite monolith, inscribed with quotes in various languages and the words valor, courage, and sacrifice etched in large letters. The monolith is surrounded by a triangular half wall of dry-stacked stone, and beyond the wall lie a number of small, flat markers nearly hidden amid native grasses and wildflowers. Some of the smaller ground markers are engraved with sayings of the Montagnard—the indigenous mountain people of Vietnam’s highlands. Despite being located in a national forest on public land, the remote memorial has been kept almost secret for most of its existence.
Tucked away in a stand of trees, the memorial sits at an elevation of 11,425 feet just off the Colorado Trail on Sargents Mesa. It is surrounded by the vast expanse of the mesa, and views of nearby mountain ranges, in the heart of open-range cattle country. Because of the remoteness of the location—it’s accessed via small dirt roads and a hike through difficult terrain—it offers a peaceful and serene experience, and doesn’t receive many visitors.
This is as planned. The memorial was created by retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and Vietnam veteran Stuart Allen Beckley, working with a stonecutter. He devoted the final years of his life to the project, carefully scouting out the perfect spot in the Rio Grande National Forest near the Colorado Trail. His dream was to place it in the high Rockies, accessible to veterans and those affected by the war, but secret enough to shield it from vandals and protect the surrounding environment.
Beckley finally received permission from the U.S. Forest Service, and the memorial was completed in 1995. Beckley passed away later that year, and though he was not able to attend the unveiling ceremony, he lived to see his dream of honoring those who lost their lives in Southeast Asia realized.