A memorial of their own
By TOM HESTER JR. Staff Writer - Trenton Times
Ben Roth doesn't understand it.
The Monroe resident thinks the state's memorials to Vietnam and Korean war veterans are necessary and beautiful.
But what puzzles him is why the state lacks a similar memorial to World War II veterans.
"So, hey, let's get on the ball," he said yesterday.
Standing in the small park across from the State House in Trenton, Roth and other World War II veterans put out a call.
They want New Jerseyans and state corporations to help raise $4 million to build a New Jersey World War II memorial in that park.
"It's a long time coming that New Jersey recognizes us veterans from World War II," said Jerome Holzman of Madison. "We do need the funding if we're going to do it while most of us are still alive."
Braving icy temperatures and ice-slicked sidewalks, the veterans honored the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor yesterday by promoting the memorial idea, which was first initiated in May 2004 by then-Gov. James E. McGreevey.
The memorial would cost $6 million to build.
The Legislature has dedicated $2 million, and a commission created to construct the memorial hopes to get $1 million from the Casino Redevelopment Authority. That contribution, however, hasn't been finalized, said Steve Abel of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Private and corporate contributions are being sought to fund the remaining costs.
"It should have been up some time ago," said World War II veteran Howard Bragg of Orange, a former member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Bragg lost a brother in the war and recalled the sacrifices yesterday as he gazed at where the memorial would be built.
"They gave their all and asked nothing," Bragg said. "If you were to see it, tears would come to your eyes."
Jack McGreevey, the former governor's father who is chairing the memorial commission, recalled how he lost his brother in the war.
"We, the citizens of New Jersey, owe the World War II veterans, the so-called greatest generation, a memorial of their own," he said.
Since the park across the street from the State House is so small, the memorial's size would be restricted. The site also lacks easy parking. But the state already owns the land and putting the memorial there would also make it accessible to the hundreds of school children who visit the State House daily during the school year.
"I think it's going to be a great experience of the people of the state of New Jersey," said World War II veteran Anna Hoffman of Readington.
Abel said the state has 180,000 World War II veterans, meaning they comprise 30 percent of the state's veterans. That compares to a national average of 15 percent.
He said the memorial will take a year to build, once the funding goal is reached.
Roth said he hoped the state's World War II veterans will be here to see the finished project.
"There aren't too many of us," he said. "We're dying off."
Contributions can be sent to WWII Memorial Commission, Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs, DVS, P.O. Box 340, Trenton, N.J. 08625-0304.
For more information, call (609) 530-7049 or go to www.nj.gov/military/veterans/wwii_memorial
NOTE: Contact State House bureau chief Tom Hester Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (609) 777-4464.
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