"...our keynote speaker will be Tom Hayden, who was well known as a
protestor during Vietnam..."
Vietnam center creates new post
Deputy director brings military, management experience
BY ERIN O. STATTEL Staff Writer
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Foundation has named an
Eatontown veteran to oversee day-today operations and programs that
educate the public about the Vietnam veteran's experience for the
Vietnam Era Educational Center.
Kenneth Gurbisz, a Vietnam veteran and a volunteer at the educational
center, has been named deputy director of education and operations at
the center, which, the website states, is the first educational
center and museum of its kind in the U.S.
According to the website, the center was dedicated in September 1998
and is devoted solely to promoting understanding of the conflict in
Southeast Asia and the surrounding political strife in America.
The center is located next to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans'
Memorial, which honors all who served during the Vietnam War,
especially the 1,562 New Jerseyans who did not return home, the
"In March, I was approached and asked if I would consider taking the
job, and I said absolutely," Gurbisz said. "I have been volunteering
at the [memorial] for the past six years and I love being here."
As a 27-year employee of PSE&G, Gurbisz held both supervisory and
management positions in the company's fossil production department
until his retirement in 2003.
Gurbisz came out of retirement to teach mathematics at the
Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission (MOESC) in Tinton
Falls, and presently serves as an adjunct professor in management at
Brookdale Community College.
He holds a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the New
Jersey Institute of Technology, as well as a master's degree in
education and human development from George Washington University in
Gurbisz's credentials include serving in Vietnam.
"I served in the Army for almost three years during the Vietnam War,
one of them as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam," he said. "Like many
Vietnam veterans, I didn't join or become part of anything
afterwards. The center here is great and it is a wonderful memorial
to those who served in Vietnam."
In a newly created position, Gurbisz will take on some of the duties
that former Executive Director Kelly Watts carried out for 17 years.
"I have loved every minute working with the veterans," Watts told
Greater Media Newspapers in May. "It truly is rewarding work, but it
was time for me to move on and I hope the center continues to thrive."
Watts left the foundation earlier this year to take over the post of
director of development at The Rutgers School of Environmental and
Biological Studies, formerly Cook College.
"We are fortunate to have someone with Ken's credentials join our
staff," said Jim Cusick, president of the board of trustees. "His
experience in Vietnam, coupled with his background in business and
education, will serve us well as we continue to tell our story to
students and visitors of all ages."
Currently, the new deputy director of education and operations said
he is working on a forum that the memorial will hold later this year.
"Right now, I am beginning to set up October's teacher forum, and our
keynote speaker will be Tom Hayden, who was well known as a protestor
during Vietnam and is probably better known for his marriage to Jane
Fonda," Gurbisz said. "The theme for this year is 'Three Faces, Three
Views' and the five topics are the draft, military action, protests,
social issues and diplomacy."
Gurbisz, who has been in his new post for all of six weeks, said that
since he is so passionate about Vietnam veterans' affairs, the job is
a natural fit.
"It is nice to do something that you are passionate about," he said.
Gurbisz said there are no plans to expand the scope of the
educational center to include veterans of the war in Iraq. His son,
Capt. James M. Gurbisz, a graduate of West Point Military Academy and
a Monmouth Regional High School scholar-athlete, was killed by an IED
on Nov. 10, 2005, while
serving in Baghdad. The younger Gurbisz, who was 25 at the time of
his death, was assigned to the 26th Forward Support Battalion, 2nd
Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga. The next
program at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, "Going
Underground: Tunnel Rats in Vietnam," will be held Saturday, July 18,
at 1 p.m. The presentation, which will be a discussion led by N.J.
Vietnam veterans, will be about the important role that soldiers
known as "tunnel rats" played in the war.
According to the Department of History at the University of Richmond,
Va., tunnel rats were American soldiers lowered into the extensive
tunnel system used by the Vietcong.
"They were usually smaller in stature and equipped only with knives,
pistols and flashlights," describes Richmond's Professor Ernest C.
Bolt's Web page on the People'sWar and Tran Van Tra.
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial is open 24 hours a day,
seven days a week, and is located off exit 116 of the Garden State
Parkway. The Educational Center, adjacent to the memorial, is open
Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information about
the memorial or educational center, call the New Jersey Vietnam
Veterans' Memorial Foundation at 1-800- 648-VETS or visit www.njvvmf.org.