HOLMDEL, N.J. (PIX11) – Vietnam veteran Walter Stinner remembers July 29, 1967, and the disaster on board the USS Forrestal.
A fire caused by a missile that mistakenly fired off the ship’s flight deck. Stinner survived that day, but many others did not.
“We lost 134 of my shipmates; 161 were injured,” said Stinner, a Navy veteran from Bayvile. “It was the worst naval incident considered since World War II.”
His fellow New Jerseyans killed that day are forever etched onto the wall at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, along with more than 1,500 other men and women from the Garden State who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the war.
They, and every veteran who gave their lives for our freedom, were honored at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony under the memorial’s oak tree.
“There’s nothing more important than freedom, nothing more important than protecting freedom,” said a former New Jersey State Senator, Nicholas Asselta.
Among those on bended knee was Vietnam veteran Rick Amsterdam. He mourned a brother-in-arms who died not in combat but after he came home to California in 1975.
“You know, he happened to get into a fight at the bar that night, and later on, he was murdered, and it was all because our service in Vietnam,” said Amsterdam. “The country kind of hated us -not kind of, did, hate us. We had major problems when we came back.”
His name is not on the wall, but Amsterdam honored him at the spot where his birthday is etched – Oct. 29.
“Said a prayer for him, said hello, asked him to watch over my family, watch over my brothers and my sisters who are with him now, and I also told him I’m watching out for his kids who are adults now,” said Amsterdam.
It’s these stories and countless others that embody what Memorial Day is about.”Every day to me -every day- is memorial day,” said Stinner. “Never to be forgotten.”