HOLMDEL, NJ – The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation (NJVVMF) will host a POW/MIA Recognition and Gold Star Mothers Recognition Day ceremony on Sept. 21 at 11 a.m. at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, located on the grounds of PNC Bank Arts Center. The event, to be moderated by NJVVMF Trustee and former New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, is free and open to the public.
With the third Friday of September designated as National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the ceremony will be one of several held nationwide to honor America’s prisoners of war and missing in action, those returned and those still unaccounted for from our nation’s wars. The event is also organized in recognition of Gold Star Mothers Day, held on the last Sunday of each September.
For keynote speaker and Gold Star Sister Susan Barker Rilliet, the occasion will mark the 51st anniversary of the loss of her brother, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jedh Colby Barker. Engaged in combat in South Vietnam, Barker held a superior force at bay with a machine gun until his right hand was injured, preventing him from operating the weapon further. When a grenade landed in the area of his fellow marines, Barker threw himself upon it, absorbing the force of the blast. In a final act of bravery, he crawled to the side of a wounded comrade and administered first aid before succumbing to his wounds.
“I’ve had the privilege of talking to a few men who were there and fighting alongside Jedh that day, and they all said the same thing: There was something very compelling about him,” Barker Rilliet said of her brother, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. “I don’t think the word ‘brave’ describes him enough.”
Barker, a Park Ridge native, was a member of a Marine family, with his father Colby and brother Warren both having both served. The spelling of his first name owed to each letter standing for four of his father’s Marine friends from World War II – John, Ezekiel, Don and Herbert (J-E-D-H). Barker Rilliet said it’s indicative of the bond held not only between service members but military families.
“There’s an unspoken camaraderie that sews us all together,” she said. “It’s an intrinsic heart connection more than anything else. It’s something you don’t even have to talk about – it’s just there.”
The Gold Star Mothers provide support to American mothers who have lost children in the line of duty of the United States Armed Forces. They focus on providing emotional support to their members, volunteering with veterans and veterans hospitals, and fostering patriotism and respect for members of the Armed Forces.
The color guard at the ceremony will be from the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 12, and Chaplain Joe Formola will deliver the invocation and benediction. Wreaths will be laid at the Memorial by various organizations.
Museum admission is free for all visitors on September 21. The facility is located at 1 Memorial Lane, adjacent to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial off the Garden State Parkway at exit 116 in Holmdel. The memorial is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is free to visit. For more information on the memorial or museum, call (732) 335-0033 or visit www.njvvmf.org.