As an Armenian Canadian, who is slowly becoming an American, the impact of the Vietnam war is difficult to understand. The only Vietnam War affiliated people I encountered in Toronto were draft dodgers, Vietnamese refugees, and parents who moved to Toronto with their young kids to ensure when they reached draft age they wouldn’t end up in southeast Asia.
Veken took time out of our Sunday schedule to show me the Vietnam Memorial in Holmdel, New Jersey, near his parent’s home–it reminded me of the power of memorials.
Unfortunately, most people in Holmdel (Veken found it one day roller blading near his parent’s home) probably don’t know about this serene monument. Along side the more conventional Vietnam memorial with the names of soldier’s engraved on its walls is a smaller monument to the war dogs that died serving in the US military (built only last year). Also on the grounds is an education center which was closed when we visited, I can only imagine the stories it tells.
What makes the site particularly poignant is the older cemetery at the heart of the complex. Dating from the early 19th C., the Crawford family cemetery suggests this little patch has a symbolic significance, one that Vietnam vets & Holmdel chose to acknowledge. For over two hundred years this rather hidden place has served as a place for mourning and memory, today it is great to see it continue in that role.
It is only unfortunate that the minimalistic sculpture of the memorials are impeded by the more conventional bronze sculptures that strain to “narrate” the monuments. If only the powers that be overcame the crutch of populism to find another more creative way to show the loss and soul-searching triggered by Vietnam, but like the soldiers (and canines) commemorated here, I guess they were only human and prone to mistakes.
Complete photos from my little tour here.