Memorial Day has become commonly regarded as a kick-off to summer, with many of us making plans to go to the beach and have barbeques with friends and family. While long-weekend celebrations are certainly something to enjoy and look forward to, it’s important that we still strive to preserve the true meaning of this solemn ocassion.
Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day began as a traditional day of observance, one that encourages people to remember and honor the lives of all the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of our country.
The tradition of wearing red poppies to honor those who died while serving in the war originated in 1915 with American professor and humanitarian, Moina Michael. Inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, she adapted the symbolism to mean “that blood of heroes never dies,” and sold poppies to help servicemen in need. In the early 1920s, the VFW “Buddy” Poppy program sold artificial poppies made by disabled veterans, making them the first veterans’ organization to create a nationwide distribution.
I encourage everyone to remember our fallen heroes this Memorial Day (May 28), whether it be buying and wearing a poppy, displaying a flag at half staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset, attending a town parade or ceremony, or visiting one of the war memorials in New Jersey (see below).
New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center
Located at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, the Memorial honors 1,562 New Jersey veterans, and is adjacent to the Museum. For free admission, you can attend the Memorial Day Ceremony on May 28th from 11a.m. to Noon.
The dual timeline displayed on the walls of the Museum takes you through the events of the war that ocurred in Vietnam and the simultaneous happenings that took place in the United States. Take an interactive look at the personal accounts of people’s letters, other writings from the era, and photos submitted by Vietnam veterans and their families.
If you can’t make it on Memorial Day, the memorial is always open, and the museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10a.m. to 4p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students, and free for kids 10 years of age and younger, as well as veterans and active military personnel.
Additionally, Saturday tours are offered by Vietnam Veteran tour guides on the first Saturday of each month at 11a.m. and 1p.m.
For more information, visit the official NJ Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation website.
New Jersey World War II Memorial
In the heart of our state’s capitol, across from the Statehouse, the Memorial at Veterans Park honors the World War II Generation with the theme of victory and the three core ideas of service, duty, and sacrifice.
On either side of the memorial are two curved walls with a timeline from 1939 to 1945. One depicts the events of the war in Europe, and the other displays events of the war in the Pacific.
The New Jersey Korean War Veterans Memorial
If you happen to be going to Atlantic City for “MDW” (Memorial Day Weekend), visit this nearby memorial for free. A list of all the people in the Armed Forces that were killed or missing in action can be viewed on the wall under the eternal flame.
The bronze sculptures of “The Mourning Soldier,” “The Wounded Soldier,” and “The Medal of Honor Recipients” bring a life-like re-enactment to visitors, and ensure that future generations remember the legacy of the dedicated servicemen and the freedom they preserved for South Korea.