West New York officials, from both Town Hall and the school district, along with the policemen’s benevolent association, spoke to the students of Public School No. 5 about the significance of Veterans Day earlier today.
Mayor Felix Roque started his military service in 1976, and in an interview, elaborated on the message public school students should understand about why the country commemorates veterans.
“It’s a way to educate the youth, we need to keep reminding them what a soldier is all about, serving our country [by] going to different countries to defend our nation and to keep it free,” began Roque.
He said he was proud to be part of the military.
“I just retired from the military, so [this type of ceremony] connects them to what it means being a soldier and the hardships that they have to endure. The students are getting a lot of education today, and I’m very thankful to the PBA, Police Director Robert Antolos and the school for putting this event together.”
West New York Police Officer Leonel Abreu is a veteran himself, serving tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He emceed the event, saying he was honored to do so.
“It’s an honor and a privilege for me as a veteran of the United States Army to be here today and have the opportunity to speak to the children about what it is to be a veteran and the price of that freedom that we live with today,” Abreu said.
He noted that today’s ceremony hit home for him personally.
“Absolutely, because I came from similar communities where the students come from where my parents didn’t speak English, and if wasn’t for my teachers in the community I wouldn’t have had any idea of how valuable our veterans are.”
West New York Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Tommy Mannion, who helped organize the event alongside a Public School No. 5 teacher, said the teacher wanted to see the town’s officers be more involved in commemorating Veterans Day.
“This is a very important event, because there’s not enough emphasis placed on our veterans [in our schools] and throughout the schools we have a lot of different programs, but none of them really emphasize the importance of the American Flag and our veterans and what it means,” he stated.
“So the teacher contacted the union, and she wanted to kind of get the cops more involved with her students and teach them about veterans, so we’re working close with her to try to bring the police community closer with the school community.”
He also noted that many of his colleagues are veterans themselves.
“A lot of the officers that work with me are combat veterans, and I know what they go through because they’ve been deployed during the course of their career, and I’ve had to make sure their families are OK while they are away. So I know the suffering that goes on, not only with the officers that get deployed, but with their families that are left here at home worried about their loved ones.”
The full ceremony streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: