Hundreds honor troops at N.J. Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Throughout the country and the region, Veterans Days ceremonies marked the sacrifices and service of U.S. troops.

Hundreds of people attended an event at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel.

One of the speakers, recently elected U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, said the nation is not doing all that it should for veterans.

“Homeless veterans, veterans that are unemployed, veterans that are hit hard by this economy,” he said. “Who are we as a country if we can’t be there for those who were there for us?”

It’s disheartening that the public is not paying much attention to the troops in Afghanistan, said Air Force veteran Pat Hartman of Tinton Falls.

“They have no respect,” he said. “Everybody is out for themselves today in this country, and it’s sad.”

During the Veterans Day events Monday, preparations began for an addition to the memorial. Officials broke ground at the future site for an icon of the Vietnam War — a Huey helicopter. The choppers were used to get supplies to the troops and take the wounded off the battlefield.

Vietnam veteran John Aitken of Red Bank is expecting the sight of the Huey display will be an emotional experience.

“If I hear a helicopter flying overhead, I still think about Vietnam. So I don’t think that’s ever going to fade,” he said. “Coming up here and seeing it is going to bring back a lot of memories, some good, some not so good.”

Fellow Vietnam veteran Ed McDermott of Basking Ridge said he was haunted for years by memories of the war. But he said he has no trepidation about see the Huey.

“It’s been 50 years. You got to get over it,” he said. “For many years, I used to let it eat me up. Then I just figured one day, what for? I just let it go.”

Plans call for the restoration work to be completed in time for the chopper to be put on display in May. There will also be an educational program so visitors can learn more about the war.

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