Vietnam Vets Balk At Half-Completed Project
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 16, 2006
HOLMDEL, NEW JERSEY--More than three decades after fighting ended in the Vietnam War, many New Jersey veterans and their families are still fighting for access to a memorial commemorating their sacrifices and those of their fellow soldiers.
Citizen complaints and several stories published this spring in the Newark Star-Ledger highlighted the fact that the Vietnam Era Education Center in Monmouth County had a set of double entry doors that were too heavy for wheelchair users and many others to open, and that the exit leading outside to the semi-circular Vietnam veterans memorial wall in the rear of the building was not accessible.
While volunteers were lined up with donations of time and materials to make both doorways accessible, the state Department of Treasury came in with promises to do the work. In August, the state spent $13,900 to install automatic openers for the front doors.
Treasury spokesman Mark Perkiss said: "We are confident that because of our service, greater numbers can visit the memorial. We are satisfied that the completed work allows for the most inclusive visitation of the facility."
The problem, say veterans and veterans groups, is that the back doors have not been touched, leaving wheelchair users to take a long route to the memorial wall.
"This is an absolute crime. It's just another slap in the face to the handicapped world," said Joe Belardo, commander of the Purple Heart chapter in Middlesex County. "Because you don't have two legs, you have to go around the entire education center? You have a longer route? It's just not right."
"Half-baked access for disabled at war shrine" (The Star-Ledger)