Lest We Forget: The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel bears the names of 1,563 New Jersey soldiers who died or went missing during the Vietnam war.

Those We Lost: The Vietnam Memorial in Holmdel lists all 1,563 New Jerseyans who went missing.
Photo by Stephen O’Byrne

Their names are inscribed on a wall of black granite panels, one for each day of the year. The wall encloses a serene patch of the state they left and never saw again. A tall red oak, the New Jersey state tree, rises at the center. There are 1,563 names, arranged by the date on which they died or went missing during the war in Vietnam. Some of the panels have many names. Only a handful are blank.

“Every one of these names…” starts Bill Linderman, before emotion chokes off his words. It’s hard not to get emotional at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where Linderman is executive director. He continues, “All these names have a story.”

The stories are told at Exit 116 of the Garden State Parkway, adjacent to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. Traffic rushes by at a distance, much like the war itself. The memorial was dedicated in 1995, and the adjacent museum and educational center in 1998. The newest addition to the site, dedicated in May, is a Huey helicopter, displayed at an angle that makes it look and sound—when speakers are blaring the roar of rotors—as if it has landed in front of the museum.

“We sanded for seven months,” says Ken Gurbisz, who flew Hueys in Vietnam. Gurbisz and a team of 30 volunteers restored the museum’s chopper, which had been sitting in a field at Fort Dix for 20 years. “It’s the iconic image of the Vietnam War,” Gurbisz says. “We thought we should have one here.”

The museum echoes the circular design of the memorial, with an outer ring of exhibits that tell the broad story of the war and an inner ring that tells the personal ones.

“Do you know the good news?! Because you’re going to be a Papa!” David R. Beattie’s mother wrote to him on August 12, 1966. The letter is displayed next to a telegram delivered to Beattie’s Neptune home one month later. It begins: “I deeply regret to confirm that your son….”

Beattie’s name is on the wall, one of four on the panel for September 18th.

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