PATERSON, NJ- Whether they served overseas or here in the US, belted out the forceful “Oorah” of the Marines or marched to the more upbeat “Anchors Aweigh” of the Navy, performed their duty on a ship or in the middle of the desert, each of the 35 men and women honored Friday by St. Joseph’s Health “served and protected freedom through service to country.”
They are heroes, CEO Kevin Slavin said kicking off the hospital’s third annual salute to employees who have served in the United States Armed Forces, and all are “role models who bring the traits they displayed in the military to their coworkers.”
“There is no greater honor than to recognize our veterans” Slavin said.
Before getting to the keynote speaker, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Chair of the New Jersey General Assembly’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, spoke of efforts she is helping to lead in Trenton to support veterans. Veterans, she said, transcend party politics in the New Jersey Statehouse.
“Whether we are Republican or Democrat we all support veterans.”
Among the key items on the agenda of the legislative committee she heads in recent times are the creation of a veterans chamber of commerce to help former military personnel start businesses; ensuring all New Jersey veterans, no matter where or when they served, receive equal benefits; opportunities to more easily transfer skills acquired in the military to the civilian workforce; and adding a special designation to veteran’s drivers licenses so they can obtain relevant services and discounts.
Following Tucker’s comments Assad Ahkter, the hospital’s director of community outreach, introduced U.S. Army Reserve Major Christopher J. Carbone. Carbone’s impressive military career began in 1998 when he enlisted as an Army Calvary Scout. Commissioned as an Army Infantry Officer Carbone was assigned to Jericho, Vermont, before being activated along with his unit on September 11, 2001, to serve in the Global War on Terrorism.
Carbone joked that he was happy to enter through the hospital’s front doors as his past visits usually brought him through the Emergency Room either to question a patient for an investigation he was conducting during his time as Wayne police officer, or in an ambulance, either transporting an unhappy patient or seeking treatment himself.
Dressed in his formal military uniform adorned with many badges earned over his decades of services, Carbone, who did tours of duty in Baghdad, Ramadi, and Doura, Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, explained that military veterans have a “camaraderie” and for those who have taken employment at St. Joseph’s, “a special bond that extends beyond being coworkers.”
The recipient of multiple Purple Hearts, a military decoration awarded to soldiers wounded while serving, Carbone took a moment to especially thank the honorees that performed their service in the medical field of the military.
Striking a more note, Carbone spoke eloquently about the need for veterans to continue to serve each other. “It’s not just what we did,” Carbone said speaking of their time in uniform, “it’s what we continue to do as veterans.”
While he worked in hostile territories for many years and was injured multiple times, including once so severely that he had to be evacuated back to the United States, it was the deaths of two of his sergeants after their service, one to suicide and one to an opioid overdose, that nearly “broke” him, he said without offering a hint of seeking what would be well deserved sympathy from the audience.
Issues such as suicide and drug use, Carbone said, are increasing, and in some cases “rearing their heads” 40 years after service and are ones, he continued, “we continue to fight.”
“The staff at St. Joseph’s are at the beginning of that fight.”
Urging his fellow veterans to seek the services and support available to them, including by looking out for each other and visiting the VA outpatient clinic located adjacent to the hospital, Carbone reminded them that whether they are in uniform or not “we are family.”
“Take care of each other,” he concluded.
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.