Throughout the last two weeks, the veterans of West Hoboken Post No.14 have followed their tradition of coming to speak to each of the schools in Union City, and also encouraging them to write letters to military members still in Iraq.
Emerson salutes hometown boys
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the faculty and student community of Emerson High School put together a program honoring veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and most recently, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It's a yearly thing we do for them, and we invited about 18 to 20 veterans this year," said Karen Goddard, school improvement coordinator.
They were members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, and while the community honors its heroes, they only ask for everyone to remember to support those still fighting.
"This year is different because we're [still] involved in the War with Iraq and we're worried about our soldiers out there," said Paul F. Novembre, commander of West Hoboken Post No. 14. "We're backing them up to the hilt, so that they come back safely."
Novembre, who was veteran of WWII and Korea, remembers a time when veterans were not acknowledged. He is touched by the response of the community today.
Emerson High School packed its 1,600 members of the student body into the school gymnasium. They all joined together in singing the National Anthem and giving the veterans a warm reception with loud cheers and American flags waving across the gym. As the ceremony went on, the students remained attentive and showed respect to the men.
"It means a lot to me," said Novembre. "Today veterans are acknowledged and everyone wishes us well, and in return I wish them well. I know we're leaving the country in good hands."
Members of the Emerson High School's Junior ROTC program led the school in the celebration, and even served as escorts for the veterans into the gymnasium.
The squad also came out with a presentation of flags from all over the world honoring the richly diverse population that exists in Union City.
"We do this every year in honor of the veterans, and the JROTC did very well; they all marched very well," said Captain Modesto Silvero, senior instructor for the JROTC.
Visiting all week
Since the beginning of November, the veterans of West Hoboken Post No. 14 have been visiting every school in Union City, which they expected to culminate with their official Veterans Day celebration at Ellsworth Park scheduled for Friday, Nov. 11.
"We had a great time at Veterans Memorial School, Edison School, and this past Monday we were at Union Hill High School, and everywhere we have received a very fine welcome," said John McMahon, veteran affairs monitor for Union City.
Veterans from West Hoboken Post No. 14 have traditionally been visiting Union City Schools for over five years sharing their stories about the war with the students, and what life was like when they came home. While many come from as far out as Rutherford or Fort Lee, these brave men were once Union City sons and take pride in coming home to share their experience.
"Every year we try to change it up a little bit," said McMahon.
This year's focus was to remember the soldiers fighting in Iraq.
"We asked the children if they knew anyone fighting in Iraq, and about the value of letters," said McMahon. "The most important things are letters from home when you're away for a long period of time. Whether it rained or snowed, these are things we want to know. A soldier will be reading it over and over again, especially around this time of year."
Another special invitee was Gunnery Sergeant Felix DeGracia, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and works for Emerson High School.
"For me it's always an honor to see members of the Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy come together as one, and we also dedicate this to Robert Hall [veteran in the Korean War], who is not doing so well," said DeGracia.