During World War I, more than three million soldiers from across the nation passed through the Hoboken waterfront. They lined up along the piers, and embarked on ships sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to the European battlefields. According to the Hoboken Historical Museum, those with the hopes of an early return from battle developed their own slogan: “Hell, Heaven, or Hoboken…by Christmas.”
Veterans returned to the same Hoboken waterfront on Thursday to commemorate Veterans Day, this time at the World War II memorial at Fifth Street and Sinatra Drive with city officials in the audience, acknowledging the sacrifice of their fellow soldiers, and to remember those that currently serve overseas.
“Is there any place but Hoboken?” – Roy Huelbig, Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient
“Of course, is there any place but Hoboken?” the veteran and former Hoboken firefighter said when asked if he lived his entire life in the city.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer also spoke at the brief event on Thursday afternoon, and expressed thanks for all veterans.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans,” Zimmer said. “We also pray for the safe return of those serving overseas.”
Former state Sen. Bernard Kenny served in the Navy and also attended the ceremony.
He called America the lighthouse of the earth and said the soldiers of America “are the eternal keepers of the lighthouse.”
Neil Murphy, of Hoboken, served in World War II and continued his annual tradition of attending the Hoboken Veterans Day ceremony. Murphy served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and his service took him from Hoboken to Texas, and then to England, France, and Germany.
Former Fire Chief Richard Tremediti served in the Army reserve, and his brothers served in the Korean War.
“I believe that the veterans should be thanked,” Tremediti said. “They have been forgotten maybe by the current generation, and maybe it’s our fault for not educating them enough. We can never forget those who serve.”
Huelbig has been involved with veterans affairs in Hoboken since 1950, and the 86-year-old lifelong Hoboken resident said he looks forward to next year, when the veterans will convene once again along the waterfront.
Ray Smith can be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com.