New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, honors those from that state who served in the Vietnam War, especially the 1,561 men and one woman who were killed or missing in action. The design for the memorial was created by Hien Nguyen in 1988, and construction was officially completed on May 7, 1995, when it was dedicated. The Memorial is located on the grounds of the Garden State Arts Center (now known as the PNC Bank Arts Center). It is open 24 hours a day, all days of the year, free of charge. Guided tours by volunteer New Jersey veterans are available for groups.
The memorial is an open-air circular pavilion, 200 feet in diameter. Around the entire outside are 366 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) black granite panels, each one representing a day the year. The casualties are listed according to what day they were killed. In the middle of the circular pavilion is a red oak, the state tree of New Jersey. This tree provides shade for three statues, one of a dying soldier, one of a nurse tending to his wounds, and one soldier standing at their sides. They represent those who died, the women in the war, and those who came back safely, respectively.
The stone panels are arranged so they are about 12 feet higher than the inner courtyard. The ten stairways and two ramps leading up to them intersect, as the designer did not want the pathways for the handicapped separate. These ramps are arranged in a double helix, each one ascending to the top in half of the circle. The two entrances to the memorial are tunnels, symbolizing the trip the soldiers took to Vietnam. Also, the designer made the memorial oriented so that the May Seventh panel, the day the war ended, points towards Vietnam.
The Vietnam Era Educational Center is adjacent to the memorial, and is the first of its kind in the country. According to one of the officials here, the state asked the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. what she would do over again given the chance to redesign the memorial. She said that, without an educational center explaining the war and turmoil in the country at that time, a memorial could be meaningless to passerby. This is the rationale for the existence of the facility. In 2010, the Vietnam Era Educational Center was changed to the Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center.
No one is buried on the memorial site, except for the original owners of the land. The property was given to the state to build on, and the owners only asked that they continue to be able to be buried here.