HOLMDEL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Bill "Doc" McClung and Michael Coale are both Vietnam veterans who have spent countless hours volunteering at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Holmdel, New Jersey.
Both veterans share their experiences and educate visitors about the Vietnam War, but they also spend time visiting with those they knew who didn't make it home. McClung served with Johnny Halladay from Merchantville, New Jersey who was killed when their platoon got ambushed.
"Each panel is a day," explained Coale. "My friend is on April 30th."
"The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Foundation is committed to telling the stories of the 1,562 brave men and one woman from the state of New Jersey who lost their lives during the Vietnam War," said Jillian Decker, Director of Development for the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Foundation.
Stories like theirs are an integral part of the experience, both at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial and the Vietnam Era Museum.
"They served with the guys on this wall, so they really have these firsthand accounts that you cannot replace," said Decker.
McClung says he was 22 when he got drafted. He grew up in East Newark and served in the U.S. Army as a medic with a reconnaissance platoon.
"When I got to Vietnam, I was assigned to an infantry unit, the 1st Cavalry Division Airmobile," said McClung. "My job was to take care of the sick and wounded."
Coale was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966.
"They put me in a recon platoon with the Headquarters Company," he said. "And we would get off our helicopters on an assault, search and destroy mission and we'd head into the jungle."
Even though McClung and Coale didn't serve together, they've since bonded over their shared experiences.
"It's something we'll never forget," said Coale. "But one of the best things to come out of it was all the friendships that I've made since being home and volunteering."
McClung agrees and says for him, "it's been a lifesaver."
Due to COVID restrictions, the museum is currently closed and volunteers are home, but a new web series called, Third Thursday VetChat, has provided a platform for these vets to stay connected and share their stories.
VetChat is a free series that is open to the public.
"A big part of it is making sure that they educate the next generation so you can actually ask questions live," said Decker.
She says these live chats are special because those watching can see the amazing brotherhood among those who served.
"We want to ensure that their legacies are protected and that they are respected," said Decker.
"I don't want those that gave their all to ever be forgotten," says Coale. "Rest in peace."
For more information:
Third Thursday VetChat
New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial
New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Foundation
Vietnam Era Museum
New Jersey veteran volunteers share experiences of Vietnam war through web series
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