Defining Elizabeth Memorials

Elizabeth’s Vietnam Memorial

On September 21, 2006 Elizabeth dedicated a marble memorial to its 29 citizens (21 under the age of 25) who died in the Vietnam War. At the 11AM ceremony many dignitaries, including Chapter 779 official Willie Mitchell, Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, Mayor Chris Bollwage and others, attested to the commitments of those who gave their last full measure of devotion. Sheriff Ralph Froelich, longtime County peacekeeper and former marine, cut the ribbon that removed the memorial cover.

Elizabeth Vietnam Memorial
Chapter 779 official Willie Mitchell
Freeholder Alexander Mirabella
Mayor Chris Bollwage

The Vietnam Memorial Monument, located on Elizabeth Avenue between City Hall and Elizabeth High School’s Jefferson House, culminated in the initiative of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 779 and a cadre of Elizabeth citizens which included Mike Guarino, Herb Worthington and the late Carl Zaro among others. Like so many other distinguished features of this city, this memorial represents the initiative of ordinary citizens in behalf of citizens like themselves, producing something extraordinary.

Sheriff Ralph Froelich
Mike Guarino
Herb Worthington

The design on the memorial features a Huey helicopter, making the point that a quarter of American casualties in Vietnam involved this mode of warfare. A silhouette of Vietnam appears on the memorial as a background for two soldiers in a bamboo field. Below, these iconic images are the 29 names of the fallen.

The selection of the Memorial’s location was particularly careful, so central to the city’s commercial traffic on Elizabeth Avenue as well as Winfield Scott Plaza, the symbolic ground where the city has memorialized other persons (Martin Luther King) and events (the Challenger disaster). This new memorial site once contained a statue honoring Christopher Columbus. City officials agreed to relocate the Columbus statue to O’Brien Field in the Peterstown section.

In the cases of both memorials, the city sought to draw its residents’ collective attention to the dynamics of nation-building, first to the country’s discoverer, then with the Vietnam Memorial, a recognition of the citizen commitment necessary to sustain American values.

Both memorials have made this location sufficiently special to call it one of Elizabeth’s sacred places.