Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Goes Online
By Steve Paul Johnson, October 21, 2000
DistantCousin.com, a family history website focused on uniting
"distant cousins" has recently published the names of veterans appearing
on the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Visitors to the website
can lookup these names along with their dates of birth and death.
Each name also includes a link to a photograph of the granite panel
upon which it is inscribed. The Memorial site can be accessed at:
The Memorial was dedicated on May 7, 1995, on the 20th anniversary
of the evacuation of the last remaining Americans from Saigon. The
Memorial consists of 366 granite panels arranged in a circle. Each
panel represents a day in the year, with an extra day for February
29. Names of veterans are inscribed on each panel based on upon
their date of death. A total 1,556 sons of New Jersey are memorialized.
"I don't think I did this project purely from a perspective of
how folks doing online genealogy would benefit", says David Podmajersky,
creator of DistantCousin.com. "I really did this project because
it is a beautiful monument from an ugly war." The memorial certainly
does an effective job of humbling all those who visit. Located in
the center of the memorial is a statue of a dying soldier lying
on the ground reaching his hand up to a fellow soldier, with facial
expressions in striking detail.
The monument is a painful reminder of the amount of life that was
lost in the service of country, even if the purpose of that service
is of controversy. "These guys didn't stop to ask too many questions",
says Podmajersky. "Their country called and they answered. Not very
many of the folks who did the actual dying were embroiled in philosophical
debates about communism."
All too often throughout genealogical research is lost the appreciation
of personal sacrifice. At times a genealogist can look at death
as little more than a date and place in their descendancy charts.
But to the "family historian", fostering the feelings one gets when
reflecting on the personal sacrifices of a loved one is all so necessary
to preserve for future generations. And thus, memorials such as
this have been erected to ensure those feelings are passed on.
Adjacent to the Memorial is the Education Center, which is dedicated
to telling the story of the Vietnam War both in the eyes of the
soldier and of those at home. A project is underway at the Center
to gather life stories of the soldiers, so that future generations
can become more familiar with those honored at the memorial. Friends
and relatives of the fallen veterans are being sought to provide
biographies, photographs, and letters. Person's willing to provide
information should contact the Center at: (732) 335-0033.
- Steve Johnson