"On Veterans Day, we solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought in the valleys, on the seas, in the air, on the shores to preserve our heritage and history," said Lt. E.G. Hansen, senior Marine instructor for the school's ROTC, which hosted the event.
Twenty-two Army, Navy, and Air Force veterans from several wars were present.
"Those who are honored today answered the call when the United States and the rest of the free world were threatened by evil forces," said Hansen. "If those forces had succeeded, ladies and gentlemen, the freedoms we take for granted would be only dreams."
He added, "They sacrificed, they risked their very lives, they selflessly put their lives on hold to go out and fight for a cause."
Two WWII veterans who put their lives on hold and left high school before they could graduate to serve in the military are Charles Gallo and Francis Seidel.
"I left school to go into the service," said Gallo, who received his diploma in Union City just last year. He added that he didn't have to take any additional classes to get it.
Seidel said he finally got his diploma in 2005, 61 years after he went into the service.
Otis Davis, who currently works for the Union City Board of Education, became a champion twice in the 1960 Olympics, once in the 400 meter dash and another time in the 1,600 meter relay, after having served his country in the Korean War.
Two Silver Stars Another WWII veteran, Carmine Varano, who graduated from the high school years ago and is now a Jersey City resident, spoke at the event. He told the crowd how he earned two Silver Stars, which are only given to those who show exceptional bravery.
Union City High School Assistant Principal Eliseo Aleman said, "This man, on two separate occasions, faced the enemy, defended his wounded buddies, and came up victorious."
Varano said that when he himself got hurt, "I couldn't call for the medic because I was the medic."
Women who served in the American Legion during WWII were also in attendance, including guest speaker Ladislava Krawiec, who talked about her experience.
"We were the ones that kept the home fires burning," said Krawiec. "We were the ones who managed our budgets so we could use only so much heat, so much sugar, so much this. We wrote letters, we prayed, we worried, but also there was a change coming. We came out of the kitchens, we went out into the factories, we went out into the offices, we took the jobs that men left behind."
Aleman said that women have had a tremendous positive impact on the military in the last half century.
"Women today are in combat roles," he said. "Women today in the military fly multimillion-dollar fighter aircraft. Women today fight and die or fight and get wounded... just like the men."
Krawiec added, "Now, we can even aspire to be the president of the U.S.A."
Leaders and jealous enemies "We still have many enemies in this world," said Hansen, "enemies that are jealous of our freedoms and of our prosperity, enemies that cooperate in nations, and enemies that cooperate in small groups. Our security is in peril, but let us [hope] that the United States will continue to produce patriots like those with me on the stand today."
He also said that the ROTC program focuses on making the students into leaders and that the event was an opportunity for the ROTC members to practice being just that.
"Because we're military, we feel very close to the veterans," said Hansen. "We feel that it is important to honor them. We want to make sure they are not forgotten."
Students in the ROTC program held a flag ceremony and the school's band and chorus also performed.
"We feel good to be part of this," said ROTC member Israel Giron.
Students in the crowd also reacted.
"It was nice," said sophomore Erika Cuello. "I learned lessons about the wars."
"I think it was very brave of them to approach us and let us know how it was," said senior Mayra Alecoo. "It teaches us that we should be proud to live in this country." Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.