AROUND NJ

New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Honors POW/MIA

By Lauren Wanko
Correspondent

He was a West Point graduate who loved the outdoors, football, family and his country. Nearly 10 years ago, Captain James Gurbisz was killed in Iraq.

“Jim had just turned 25. He was 25 in September of 2005 and he was killed on Nov. 5. It was a roadside IED,” said Helen Gurbisz.

The Eatontown resident was killed while trying to help a fellow soldier.

“One of the things I think you’ll find out about Gold Star moms is this drew us all together, we come from many walks of life. But this is the common denominator for all of us,” said Helen.

Today, Gold Star Mothers were recognized during a wreath laying ceremony at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel, along with Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.

“The importance of it is because people forget. Nobody recognizes that there might be, and there possibly is a POW out there. Especially from Iraq and Afghanistan, even possibly from Vietnam and missing in action,” said Vietnam Veteran Dan O’Leary.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency indicates as of Sept.3, more than 83,000 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars and other conflicts.

“A lot of these people, these siblings or even parents would not know what happened to them, you know, you never get closure,” said Robert Howley.

Helen and her husband Ken — a Vietnam Veteran — are grateful for their closure.

“They actually sent three officers to the house and as soon as I opened the door, when they knocked on the door, I instantly knew what it was. My knees almost buckled,” Ken said.

Ken hopes today’s ceremony and the New Jersey Gold Star Family Monument — which will be unveiled at the Vietnam Era Museum and Educational Center next weekend — will remind all Americans of the sacrifices our service members make.

“Although our current military’s not a draft — less then 1 percent of the population– they’re there not for the pay. They’re there cause they love their country and want to keep us safe and that’s what Jim was doing. He was keeping us safe,” said Ken.

Jim’s legacy lives on — not only in their hearts– the Gurbisz family created a non-profit for at risk youth in Jim’s name. Tomorrow, they’re taking more than two dozen kids to a West Point football game.

“He had a love of country and we’re very proud of what he was doing. He was doing what he wanted to do. So although it’s a terrible loss and he was our only son, he was defending his country,” Helen said.