They wanted to build a monument to the brothers and sisters who gave the supreme sacrifice, enabling us all to enjoy their precious gift of freedom. They wanted to honor their fallen comrades and those who suffered because of the Vietnam War. They wanted those who died to never be forgotten and always be honored. They succeeded.
The Last Patrol, a group of New Jersey Vietnam veterans who walked from the nation’s capital to the site of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel to raise awareness, support, and funds for the monument, did just what they set out to do in May of 1989. The memorial, still going strong today, soon became a symbol of the sacrifice given for freedom during the Vietnam War.
Members of The Last Patrol gather at the site of the would-be New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial after their walk from Washington, D.C. in 1985. The men walked over 200 miles to raise awareness for the building of the memorial.
Fourteen years after the end of the war in Vietnam and several years after the creation of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, D.C., the state of New Jersey finally had a fitting monument for the men and women who lost their lives in Southeast Asia.
The memorial was designed by Hien Nguyen of Marlboro, New Jersey. Nguyen, an architect, is a former South Vietnamese citizen forced to flee his country with his mother and sister after the communist takeover in 1975. His family fought at the side of American troops during the entire length of the Vietnam War. The scale model of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial was toured around the state at a variety of public events and veteran’s functions.
The memorial is constructed on a 5.5-acre site near the PNC Bank Arts Center. Three statues, one representing servicemen who died in Vietnam, one for those who survived, and one for the women who served in the war, lay under a red oak tree which represents the Garden State. Inside the perimeter there are 366 black granite panels, one for each day of the year. The names of each soldier, marine, sailor or airman killed or reported missing in action are engraved upon the appropriate panel.
The circular pavilion allows visitors to embrace all the names at once and provides the sense of privacy and serenity appropriate to a memorial to the fallen veterans.
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation will honor The Last Patrol and the 20th Anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial with a ceremony. The event will be May 7 from 11a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Memorial and will celebrate New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Remembrance Day, established in 1991 as a unique day in New Jersey to honor all those who served in the military during the Vietnam Era. 2015 also marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation offers a meaningful and engaging experience that recognizes the sacrifices, courage and valor of Vietnam veterans and that encourages and fosters a thorough understanding of the Vietnam era including the political, historical, social, cultural and military aspects which affected the United States, and especially New Jersey.
Stephanie Eichmeyer is a former journalist turned writer and public relations specialist. Her background includes non-profit work in health care and fundraising, as well as event planning, media and community relations and internal and external communications.