James E. Gosselin’s black and white Pleasantville High School senior yearbook picture from 1960 is the only photo of him that the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation has managed to recover.
However, it was this photo that played a crucial role in helping the foundation fix a clerical error in records that had incorrectly listed his hometown as Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, rather than Pleasantville, New Jersey.
Now that the mix-up has been corrected, Gosselin’s name is finally being added to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Holmdel. On Sunday at 2 p.m., the memorial’s board of trustees will host a ceremony to celebrate and honor the fallen veteran.
The ceremony is expected to draw of crowd of people including members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jewish War Veterans and a large group from Gosselin’s hometown in Atlantic County.
Pleasantville High School’s marching band, along with the school’s Junior ROTC, will travel to perform at the ceremony, the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation said.
“It’s unbelievable the level of excitement that people have over this,” said Amy Osborn, chief executive officer of the foundation. “Pleasantville is a town that you know, maybe up here people have never heard of, but now they’re going to see them out in full force at the Holmdel Vietnam Memorial.”
Long Branch Monument, the company that will be sandblasting Gosselin’s name on the wall, was so moved by the story that it offered to do the job for free, Osborn said.
When the memorial wall was first established in 1995, more than 1,500 names were inscribed on the open-air circular pavilion and arranged according to their date of casualty. Gosselin will be the second additional name added to the wall since its creation.
He will be listed on the Feb. 2 panel to commemorate the day in 1968 when he was killed in action while serving as a Navy Corpsman, a combat medic for the Marines, during the Battle of Huế. Gosselin was 26 years old when he died, having initially joined the Army after high school and later serving in the Navy.
Earlier this year, Bill Leipold, a Vietnam veteran and tour guide for the foundation, found out from someone who served with Gosselin that his name was never added to the wall in 1995.
From there, Leipold — who also grew up in Pleasantville but was a few years younger than Gosselin — did some digging to confirm that the fallen veteran was from New Jersey and not Pennsylvania, which he was incorrectly recorded as.
“The final straw for me was I went to the Atlantic County Historical Society building in Somers Point and two curators there were able to physically give me the 1960 yearbook from Pleasantville High,” Leipold said.
Leipold also found a 1968 Atlantic City Press newspaper article with Gosselin’s photo and obituary featured on the front page.
“It all came together,” he said. “Being a Vietnam veteran myself, a New Jersey native myself, I just wanted to make sure everything was done right for him.”
Soon after the realization was made and the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation was notified, the group began the process of adding Gosselin to the wall and uncovering more information about his life, Osborn said.
After speaking to people who served with him, Osborn found out that Gosselin’s nickname was “Doc Goose,” and one friend even described him as “a big teddy bear.”
He was shot and killed while trying to retrieve one of his comrades during the Battle of Huế, a battle known as one of the fiercest and longest of the war.
Also, the unit that Gosselin was in when he was killed was the Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, which is one of the most decorated and storied regiments in the Marine Corps, Leipold noted.
“Given the misunderstanding, administrative error, it’s just wonderful that we can properly put him in place with his other brothers and sisters that lost their lives,” Leipold said.
Pages of touching stories about his life and service are posted online on the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s Wall of Faces dedication site. One note reads, “‘He joined the Navy to take care of the Marines,’ said his father, John R. Gosselin, who served 35 years with the Leathernecks.”
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