Following several weeks of training in Fort Bliss, Tx, Roa Jr. will be among approximately 3,000 New Jersey National Guard soldiers sent to serve overseas.
He and his fellow recruits received a grand send off in a ceremony at Fort Dix, New Jersey on June 20.
Jeff Welz, Weehawken's director of public safety, was present for what he said is supposed to be the largest deployment of the state's National Guard since World War II.
With an estimated 15,000 people at Fort Dix for the event, Welz saw many family members and friends show their support for loved ones as they prepare to fight overseas.
Welz said, "Whether you believe in the war or not, you have to support the troops."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner also attended the ceremony in support of Roa Jr. and his family as well as others serving their country.
"He's a superb police officer, and he's a credit to his department and his family, and obviously, to his country for undertaking his military service," Turner said, adding that the ceremony was a very moving experience. "He's going to represent his country and his town extremely well, and we wish him a safe and speedy return."
One of Weehawken's finest
Roa Jr. grew up knowing what it means to serve and protect. His father is a retired Weehawken police officer, and Roa Jr., a lifelong Weehawken resident, joined the Weehawken Police Department in January 1999 and he was promoted to sergeant in January 2007.
Alison Roa, his wife, said that fresh out of high school in 1997, Roa Jr. took six months of basic training in the National Guard. Later, he left Rutgers University to become a Weehawken police officer, and continued his education, majoring in history and criminal justice at night school at New Jersey City University where he graduated with a bachelor's of science.
In summer 2005, he took an infantry officer basic training course at Fort Benning, Ga to become a first lieutenant. Now in charge of a platoon of about 20 men, Roa Jr. was still completing his officer course which is why his unit deployed for the first time to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba without him.
When his unit deploys this time, Roa Jr. will be with them all the way - first going to Kuwait for acclimation and then to Iraq to fill his almost 400 days of service.
A few days after the ceremony at Fort Dix, Alison Roa dropped her husband off at the Armory in Jersey City, and he is tentatively scheduled to deploy from Texas on Aug. 27.
A family at home
Born in Oradell, Alison first met Rene in 1996 while they were attending different high schools. The couple was married in 2003, and now they have a 13-month-old daughter, Juliet.
"Of course, I was upset that he was going to be deployed, but he feels strongly that he has to go," Alison said, adding that he was glad he would be there for his unit this time. "I knew it was always something that was a possibility."
With their little girl walking and soon to begin talking, Juliet will mark more milestones of development while her father is away.
"I think that was his main concern; that he was going to miss out on this year of her life," Alison said.
To stay as connected to his family as often as possible, she explained that they set up a Web cam before he left, and he has been calling daily while still in Texas.
Alison said she puts Juliet on the phone when Rene calls: "She gets very serious, like she's listening intently." But once he deploys, they will be relying on the Web cam and e-mail to keep in touch.
Roa Jr. has been gone for about three weeks now, and Juliet seems to be noticing that something is different.
Alison said, "I think she's a little young to know, but she has been a little bit clingier with me and my mother, who watches her."
But Alison, who works part-time as a public health nurse for the Lyndhurst Health Department, is doing all she can to make sure that father and baby stay close through this time apart.
"I've been trying to take pictures - I'm trying to do it daily - of things that she's up to," Alison explained, saying that he took a lot of photos of Juliet with him.
She added, "He made videos before he left, and I'm going to put those on for her," and they include him reading some of her favorite books like "It's Not Easy Being Big!" and "Oh, the Places You'll Go."
Roa Jr. also made sure he spent a lot of time with his daughter before he left, taking trips to the Natural Museum of History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Point Pleasant Beach.
Alison added, "The baby and I love him and miss him, and we hope he's home soon, safely."
Weehawken resident Maureen Komorowski, Roa Jr's aunt, asks that residents of Weehawken put flags out in support of her nephew while he is overseas serving his country.
Mayor Turner said the town echoes Komorowski's sentiments to Roa Jr. and all servicemen, wherever they are.
Comments can be sent to Mpaul@hudsonreporter.com.