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new jersey vietnam veterans memorialNew 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: http://distantcousin.com/WarMemorials/Vietnam/NewJersey/

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

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