Young Roa's father, Rene, Sr., was a Weehawken patrolman, and the younger Roa wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.
"I used to always wear his hat and uniform," Roa, Jr. said. "I pretended to be like my father. I wanted to be a cop like him."
When Roa graduated from St. Peter's Prep in 1997, he decided to begin the steps necessary to live out his dream. He enlisted in the National Guard instead of going off to college.
"I think everyone should do something to serve their country," Roa, Jr. said. "I'm proud to be an American and this was something I felt I had to do. I always wanted to join the military and become a police officer. I was lucky enough to do both."
In 1998, Roa took the test to become a Weehawken police officer, joining the force with his dad, who has remained a patrolman for the last quarter century.
"Although we're in different squads, there are times we work together," Roa, Jr. said. "I'm part of the patrol division, but it's an honor when I get the chance to work with my father."
For the last seven years, Roa, Jr. has dedicated one weekend a month and two weeks every summer to the National Guard. He's been assigned to headquarters at the Jersey City Armory, when he was involved with the medical unit, but more recently, he's worked out of the Riverdale facility in Bergen County, because his unit became consolidated.
Not to mention, Roa, Jr. has spent the last two years working toward becoming an officer in the National Guard, having another dream in mind - to have dual careers in the police department and the military.
"I'm a workaholic," said the 25-year-old Roa, Jr. "I think I can handle doing both."
Last month, Roa, Jr. achieved one of those goals, when he was a graduate of the New Jersey National Guard Officers Training Program, with ceremonies being held at the headquarters in Sea Girt.
Roa, Jr. was one of two Weehawken residents to participate in the officers' training graduation, joining Christopher Roche.
But Roa, Jr.'s graduation was particularly impressive to the township officials who watched the young man grow up before their eyes.
Mayor Richard Turner and Public Safety Director Jeff Welz traveled to the graduation ceremony as a way to honor the younger Roa.
"I was honored to be invited and I certainly made sure I was there for Rene," Turner said. "It was impressive that we had two young men from Weehawken. It was an impressive graduation ceremony. In today's environment, serving in the National Guard is more important now than in recent history. Units are being deployed overseas for various reasons. These young men signed up, accepted their roles and graduated as officers. I take my hat off to them for taking the next step."
Roa, Jr. said that he was flattered that the town's officials made the journey to attend the ceremony.
"They've always been so supportive of me, in everything I do," Roa, Jr. said. "They've been willing to work with me, helping me get through the classes I needed to take. They said, 'Go do what you have to do.' I appreciated that."
Roa, Jr. now has the rank of Second Lieutenant with the National Guard. Since he's completed his training, he's now capable of commanding troops in infantry responsibilities - which means he could be deployed to Iraq at any time.
"By the time I finish officer training, I will be deployable," Roa, Jr. said. "I love the military and I'm proud to be a platoon leader for the infantry."
Roa, Jr. has also been assigned to the Riverdale's Office of Emergency Management. He's pleased to finally have completed the Officers Training program, considering that he originally enrolled in the program two years ago, but had to withdraw after being injured on the job as a police officer. He was struck by an automobile while doing traffic duty near the Marginal Highway and suffered ulnar nerve damage that kept him out of work for six months.
"Once I was able to get my strength back up, I re-enrolled in the program and became eligible," Roa, Jr. said.
Roa, who was married last October to wife, Alison, continues to make Weehawken his home. Although he's living out a lifelong dream, he knows that things could change in a hurry, if he's deployed overseas. Some of his former colleagues have been sent to Iraq. Others have been shipped to Cuba.
"I'm in the Army," Roa, Jr. said. "If they deploy me, I'm ready. I'm looking forward to go as an officer in charge. Perhaps I can save a life or prevent something from happening."
Roa, Jr. was asked about the role of the National Guard in the Operation Iraqi Freedom war.
"I don't think we're overlooked anymore," Roa, Jr. said. "In fact, we're playing a huge role, even bigger than ever before. Sixty to 70 percent of the operational force comes from the National Guard. In the past, the National Guard might have been different, but now, we're more in the forefront. They're depending on us heavily, so I have to be ready if called."