Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Museum foundation is hopeful state will provide additional $15M in funding for expansion

The grand reopening of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Museum earlier this month came with more than just a ribbon-cutting ceremony — it produced the start of a promise from the state to help fund and expand what is believed to be the only Vietnam-era museum of its kind in the nation.

Last week, the state Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed S2533 by a vote of 5-0, which would make a supplemental appropriation of $15 million to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation to expand the museum.

Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden), the vice chair of the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the funding serves a vital purpose.

“The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation serves over 10,000 New Jersey students annually, teaching them about the war and the sacrifice of our soldiers,” she said. “This appropriation will enable the foundation to expand their museum, attain necessary equipment for the preservation of historical artifacts and, most importantly, provide an enhanced experience for students and visitors to learn about the Vietnam War.”

The bill would support an additional 11,850 square feet for the Vietnam Era Museum.

The news was applauded by the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation.

Maj. Gen. Clark Martin, chair, and Nick Asselta, vice chair of the board of trustees, thanked the bill sponsors, Cruz-Perez and Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield), and the entire committee.

“The Vietnam Era Museum presents factual and unbiased information about the era and educates future generations about the Vietnam War,” the statement said. “The museum also serves as a special home for many Vietnam veterans who proudly serve as docents at the facility.”

Amy Osborn, executive director and CEO of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation, obviously was thrilled. She said the grand reopening was a special day — as it came 29 years after the initial opening, May 7, 1995.

The ceremony was attended by Vietnam veterans, board members and state and local dignitaries. State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.) was honored at the event for his leadership in securing funding for the museum’s renovations.

“We’re grateful to Sen. Gopal for securing state funding for much-needed renovations,” Clark said. “This museum, and the historical content within its walls, are so critical to educating future generations about the Vietnam War and that time period. With these renovations, we’re able to educate our visitors using the latest technology and preserve important historical artifacts for decades to come.”

A special presentation by the American Legion Department of New Jersey State Cmdr. Larry Bishop was delivered in the form of a check to fund a new club car to transport handicapped and physically challenged guests around the memorial.

The foundation said the work continues — and that it is hopeful the state will come through with additional funding.

“Every day, the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation works to honor the sacrifices made by New Jersey veterans,” they said in a statement. “This bill will help us expand and modernize the museum and preserve the stories of our brave Vietnam veterans for generations to come. We look forward to the bill being heard in the Senate Budget Committee, as well as in the Assembly.”