Vietnam Memorial Nearby Offers Interaction With Veterans

Gabrielle Weir, Staff Writer

The New Jersey Vietnam Memorial Museum in Holmdel held its 20th Vietnam forum March 22.

The museum was built in 1995 and was the first Vietnam War museum of its kind in the United States.

This year the keynote speaker was Elizabeth Becker, an NPR correspondent for NPR in Cambodia and author of “You Don’t Belong Here,” which focuses on three women journalists in Vietnam.

“Seventy civilian journalists died in Vietnam. It’s about carrying the message and never forgetting,” Becker said.

Other speakers were Robert Horiedne, a freelance photographer in Vietnam, Jim Laurie, an NBC news correspondent who covered the Fall of Saigon, and Julie Tulba, author of “Red Clay Ashes” about a female journalist in Vietnam.

“I always look for fresh ways of teaching about the era and new sources and perspectives to bring in,” said Rebecca DiBrienza, a Scotch Plains High School history teacher who attended. “I have been at my current school for 11 years, so I’ve been coming here for a really long time with the students.”

“I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and attending this forum for over 10,” said Robert Gangi, an East Brunswick High School social studies teacher. “My Vietnam course is one of the most popular electives in the school and bringing my students here enhances their experience and education.”

Gangi was awarded “Teacher of the Year” by the New Jersey Vietnam Memorial Museum Foundation in 2019.

“My students love it when we come here,” DiBrienza said. “They like to talk to the veterans and they like to see the timeline. They find being in the memorial is a very peaceful, very kind of reflective experience. It also puts in perspective for them what we’ve been learning in the classroom, so it’s very valuable.”

“My students enjoy speaking to the veterans,” Gangi said. “What the staff and volunteers do here is powerful and important work.”

The NJVVM is staffed by Vietnam Veteran volunteers.

“I served 16 months in Vietnam in the 155 5th and eight inch Battery, and was involved in 14 major operations in communications for my unit,” said James Biringer, a NJVVM volunteer from Union City. “I got involved here after I retired.”

“I felt it was a great place to teach young people and individuals about the war and New Jersey’s involvement in the war,” Biringer said. “My favorite part about volunteering here is working with other Vietnam veterans. All of us served in different branches of the military and at different times. It’s an incredible support system for me.”

The Vietnam Era Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free to veterans, active military, and children under 10.

The NJ Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The memorial and museum are located at 1 Memorial Lane, Holmdel.