If you’ve never visited the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Holmdel, I highly recommend it. The ground breaking for the memorial and museum took place on May 7th, 1989. May 7th represents the day the war ended.

I went to the facility a few years ago and it was quite an eye-opening experience. The museum has a time line against the walls that chronicles the beginning to the escalation to the end of the Vietnam War. It also has a companion time line that describes what was going on in the US at the same time, including the protests and dissent at home. One of the more touching displays in the museum is the collection of letters, both from those serving in Southeast Asian and those that were sent home.

The memorial is located outside with 8 foot tall granite panels, each representing a day of the year; on each panel is a list of those who died in the war on that day. There are three statues in the middle, one representing those who died in the war, one representing the role of women in the war, and one representing those who came home safely. Also located outside are the War Dog Memorial, the Purple Heart Memorial, and the Gold Star Memorial.

If you go, I don’t know if you will be as lucky as my son and I were. We got a guide with a near encyclopedic knowledge of the war. He added quite a bit of context and personal perspective to both the museum and memorials (he was a Vietnam veteran). If you’ve ever been to the PNC Bank Arts Center, you have probably seen the site as it is located right across from the venue. I strongly suggest to make time for a visit to learn about a pivotal, painful, and heroic era of US history.

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