US II students visit the New Jersey Vietnam War Memorial


Julia Sassoon

On March 14 and 15, students from various tenth grade United States History II classes traveled to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, New Jersey. The trips scheduled for March 13 and 21 were canceled due to weather related issues.
Students visited both the indoor and outdoor sections of the memorial. A part of the outdoor memorial is arranged in the shape of a teardrop to represent the tears shed by soldiers in the war, while another part is arranged in the shape of a double helix to represent DNA, which was (and still is) the only way to identify missing soldiers.
Within these structures, students were able to observe monuments that portrayed different aspects of the war in Vietnam, including sculptures of tunnel rats, war dogs and nurses treating soldiers.
“The trip to the memorial helped me to get a further understanding of what we’ve been learning in history,” sophomore Abigail Friedman said.
The tours of the outside portion were led by veterans of the war, who accompanied each exhibit with a detailed explanation of their real-life experiences in combat.
“My favorite part of the trip is [seeing] the interaction between the students and the veterans themselves,” social studies teacher Stephen Kolesar said. “Talking to the veterans about their personal accountings is really valuable.”
Also included in the outdoor portion is a memorial for all of the fallen soldiers from New Jersey, arranged on panels in accordance to their dates of passing. On the ground of the memorial, names of soldiers who died as a result of the war (from illness or post traumatic stress disorder) are engraved as well.
Inside of the museum, students were shown an informational video on the inside experience of being drafted into war, as well as general information about being involved in the war. Following this, students had the opportunity to ask the veterans any questions about their memories of Vietnam.
“It was interesting to hear what Vietnam was actually like from real veterans instead of just watching videos in class,” sophomore Christina Gubernat said.
The students also were able to observe a timeline on the museum walls showing historical events that occurred simultaneously both in Vietnam and in “real life” in the United States.
“I hope that students got a more personal account of the war rather than the textual historical content they usually get in the classroom,” Kolesar said.
In addition, some students had the chance to view the “Music of the Vietnam Era” exhibit created by social studies teacher Rebecca DiBrienza.
At the memorial, students were able to further their class learning of the Vietnam War. The opportunity to hear from war veterans and view impactful structures brought their school curriculum to life.