In honor of Veterans Day, the Office of the President held an event in the Pavilion to honor veteran members of the Ramapo community. There, President Cindy Jebb, along with Lt. Col. Adam Scher, Mahwah Mayor James Wysocki, Bergen County Commissioner Ramone Hache and County Executive James Tedesco spoke about appreciation for veterans’ service. The event, held on Nov. 10, also featured a ceremony where each veteran and serviceman in the audience was awarded a medal and certificate of commemoration from the county.
Jebb, a retired brigadier general, was the first speaker and began by quoting the famous saying from Hillel the Elder, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And being for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” She broke down the saying in the context of veterans.
“In the first instance, ‘If I’m not for myself, who will be for me?’ Many veterans have had to reflect on their identity, whether that means their service identity, their values that guide and define them or professional ethic and leader development,” she said.
For the second and third parts of the phrase, she believed those apply to working in diverse teams for a common purpose and veterans from all eras who have answered the call to protect the country. She also urged veterans to remember their oath to uphold the Constitution and reflect those values.
“That oath is to the Constitution, not to a person, not to a party, not to other partisan affiliation. We served our country, period,” she said.
Lt. Col. Scher came to the podium next. Scher is a professor of military science at Seton Hall and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also leads the ROTC Pirate Battalion at Seton Hall. He previously taught at West Point alongside Jebb and had her as a professor while he was a cadet. He began by explaining Mahwah’s military history, including how Ramapo accepted veterans after the Vietnam War and what Veterans Day means to him.
“Veterans Day is about sharing stories of service and sacrifice. But it’s not just about those stories among our veterans in our veteran community. It’s about how we share those stories with the American people, with the men and women that we serve,” he said.
Scher also spoke about his experience at West Point and working with the cadets of the ROTC Pirate Battalion in leadership. Her shared a particular story about a cadet from Haiti who lived there during a political coup and assassination. He described how the cadet was thinking about his family and friends as well as how he tried to continue to serve and care for those people. He connected that experience of being able to teach and guide future leaders to his time learning from Jebb.
“Ma’am, I hope that I am a proud example of what it means when we tell our veterans your soldiers are your resume. And I know that I can never pay General Jebb back, but I hope that I can pay it forward,” he said.
When Wysocki spoke, he gave the official definition of veteran, which is a person who served in the military. He explained that this definition does not even come close to what it means to be a veteran.
“These men and women made a choice or were chosen to serve our country to protect our freedoms on a daily basis as active members of our armed forces. They served our country to protect our freedoms while making sacrifices of their own,” he said, naming some of the specific sacrifices veterans make that we don’t tend to think about.
Tedesco spoke about the importance of looking after our veterans and what Bergen County is doing to assist the veteran community.
“We get to say how much we appreciate what you are doing or what you have done. And there are some that I can’t say that to because they are no longer here,” he said when expressing the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. A key point of his speech was the “moral obligation to make sure we take care of our veterans.”
Some specific accomplishments to aid veterans in Bergen County include ending chronic homelessness for veterans in the county in 2015, rebuilding Bergen Newbridge Medical Center and offering veterans medical and mental health programs.
The event ended with the commemoration ceremony, where each veteran and serviceman in the audience received their medal and certificate along with a photo with Tedesco and Hache.
Photo by Matthew Wikfors.