Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the City of Hoboken once again invited school children to participate in the Hoboken Veterans Day Essay Contest.

This year’s topic: Who is a veteran, past or present, you admire and why?

Essays by Nicole Vij (Hoboken Catholic Academy) and Arianna Santiago (Hoboken Middle School) were co-1st place winners in the contest, and we’re proud to present their pieces here for all to enjoy:

Nicole Vij
8th Grade, Hoboken Catholic Academy

What does it mean to serve in the United States Armed Forces?  It means someone has committed a period of their life, whether four years or fifty years, to serving and protecting our country.  The soldiers, male and female, are trained to give their lives to protect us.  It is because of these veterans that we can sleep safely at night and enjoy the many freedoms in our daily lives.

As Veterans Day nears, I honor all veterans, including one in particular that is near and dear to me and that is my dad, Ajay Vij.  Ajay served in the United States Air Force from 1984-1990.  Although Ajay was not on the front lines fighting in a war and didn’t die for our country as many have, he would have, if necessary.  He was dedicated, committed and honored to serve his country.  For my dad, serving in the United States Armed Forces is extra special as he is a naturalized citizen.  He came to the United States at the age of eight and to be able to serve the country that so welcomed him gives him much pride.  He is grateful that he was able to give back to the country that he loves so dearly and gave him so much.

As we enjoy our daily lives we should remember and always honor veterans, past and present.  There are many that we can do this for.  We can donate to many charities for veterans.  We can hang up the American flag in front of our homes to show the love and support for our country and soldiers.  We can educate ourselves on American history and understand what soldiers have had to endure.  We can visit a memorable or grave site of veterans.  We can take a few moments of silence to remember those who have lost their lives fighting for our country.  We can also honor veterans when they return back from a war by taking care of them and their families.  Finally, and not lastly, when we see a veteran we can thank him or her for their service to our country.

Just remember on this upcoming Veterans Day and every day, we should always be grateful and thank these people that give us the freedoms we have in the United States of America.  Remember that men and women all over the world are away from their families, protecting our country and ready to give their lives for us.  We should pray for the soldiers and their families each and every day.  May God keep them safe and healthy as they serve our country.

Arianna Santiago
8th Grade, Hoboken Middle School

Veteran’s Day.  What is it?  Why do we celebrate?  Why does it matter?  To many, the answers to these questions have been forgotten.  To others, it’s just a day off from school. But to me, it means something more.  Veterans are more than just forgotten battle heroes or something to think of sympathetically for a moment, only to return to your daily lives a second later.  They’re mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives.  They are people; ordinary people doing something extraordinary for the sake of people they don’t know.  And I happen to be lucky enough to personally know one.  My uncle, Felix Santiago, is a Vietnam veteran.  And he is one of the best people I know.

My uncle Felix is simply and truly amazing.  He fought in the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1954 to April 30, 1975.  He fought bravely and tirelessly for his country, so we can have the freedom to do and say as we please.  Not only did he fight in the war, but he also worked for the fire department for most of his adult life.  He has spent almost all his life protecting people, selflessly and bravely.  But I didn’t know him as a war vet, and I didn’t know him as a fire chief.  He was my uncle, my Tio Felix.  I know him for his war stories and how he would act out every part, making me laugh and stand on the edge of the seat.  I know him as someone who never failed to give me mac’ and cheese when I was little, every time I went over.  I know him for telling me embarrassing stories about my dad when he was little, and how all of them would ride four wheelers down the shore.  I know him for making the best breakfast for the whole family when we’re down the shore, and always saving me some because I hate waking up early.  He’s the man that welcomes everyone into his home and never complains when they stay late.  He’s the only who makes the best hot dogs, and always makes sure I had some.  And he’s the man who never failed to make me laugh with his absolutely spot-on Donald Duck impression, complete with a signature catch phrase.  And that’s what makes him and so many others like him amazing.  It’s the fact that someone can risk their life, one of, if not the most, selfless acts known to man, and still manage to give, even if it’s just making one little girl happy.

So that’s what Veterans Day is to me.  It’s honoring those amazing people who lived an even more amazing life.  It’s taking time to give credit to the thousands of men just like my uncle, who live boldly and bravely.  He’s a veteran, and is the reason I have the freedom to write this very essay, sharing his and my story.  Which, in its most condensed form, is that he spends all of his life making other peoples’ better.  Which, in my opinion is the most extraordinary thing someone can do.  And that’s exactly what my uncle, and other veterans are; extraordinary.


Authored by: hMAG