UNION, NJ – Union firefighter Captain Gary Steitz, EMT Sara Miranda, and police officer Dragan Ristovski were honored on Sunday afternoon by the Union VFW with ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars Loyalty Day’ Awards.

Bob Johnson, Past Commander/Quartermaster of the VFW, said the award recipients from the police, fire and rescue departments are nominated by their respective unit for contributions and service to their department and to the community and for their patriotism and support of veterans.

Citing her accomplishments, Johnsen said of Sara Miranda, “she may only have two years of EMS experience under her belt, but has quickly become one of Union EMU’s most qualified and praised EMTs.  From the beginning, Sara has proven to be hardworking, kind, and loyal to her community”. 

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Miranda joined Union EMU as a joint endeavor to become familiar with the medical field and as a way to give back to the community she grew up in.  An alumnus of Union High School and Rutgers University, she is currently studying for her Master’s in Biomedical Sciences aiming to attend medical school to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon.  “In spite of her busy schedule balancing life, work and school, Sara has always made time for the citizens of Union and performs her duties with the utmost respect, impeccable clinical skills, and a smile that calms and reassures patients that they are in the right hands.”

State Senator Joseph Cryan, presenting Miranda with a State Resolution, said, “this young lady represents the best of the best.  A positive person who makes a difference and who will continue to make a difference as she moves on in her career.”

Captain Gary Steitz, Sr. was appointed to the Township of Union Fire Department on April 2, 1979.  In September 1991, he was transferred to the Fire Prevention Bureau as a Fire Inspector.  He was promoted to lieutenant in July 1997 and captain in July 2001, as serves as the Union Township Fire Official.

Steitz is a graduate of Union High School and a lifelong resident of Union.  He served with the Union Fire Department for over 40 years and will be retiring this month.  Johnsen said Steitz has earned many professional licenses included Fire Subcode official, Fire Protection Inspector-ICS and Fire Inspector, all within the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety.

Steitz received certification from New Mexico Tech in Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings and training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.

Steitz is a coordinator of the Juvenile Fire Setting Program and developed “Smoke Alarms for Newborns” program.  He is a 20-year member of the Union County Fire Investigation Unit and serves as their coordinator for the past 15 years.  He also serves on the Union County Fire Services Advisory Board as the Fire Investigation Representative.  Steitz is the recipient of the 2015 Saint Barnabas Burn Center Valor Award.  He is a member of the F.M.B.A. #246, Superior Officer’s Association.

“You have had a remarkable career,” said Cryan with a State Resolution for Steitz.  For the people of Union, their homes and their community is much safer because you did your job, and you did it so well."

Dragan Ristovski, known as the unofficial “Mayor of Union Police Department”, was appointed to the Union Police Department in July 1999.  Johnsen said prior to that, he was in the U.S. Marine Corp and a correction’s officer at Rahway State Prison.  Ristovski is currently assigned to the Staff Services division after 19 years of service in the Patrol Division. 

During his tenure in Union, Ristovski has been awarded a Certificate of Recognition (2008) and Command Citation (2009).  He has been a member of Union County’s SWAT/UCERT since 2004, where he received strenuous training to maintain safety and security in potentially dangerous settings and situations. 

Ristovski played a vital role in revamping the Township of Union Explorer Program, which enables Union teens to participate in various aspects of law enforcement through training scenarios, community service and social activities.  His valuable and selfless time and efforts have continued to make the annual “Santa in Blue” a success by sorting, wrapping and distributing donated gifts and toys to children in need.

“I think it’s safe to say that all of Union has a gift in Dragan.  That’s the reality of it,” said Cryan, presenting a State Resolution to him.  “Within all spheres of his life and work, Officer Dragan Ristovski has established a model to emulate and set a standard of excellence toward which others might strive to achieve.”