Gray skies and a sudden November chill greeted nearly a dozen military veterans outside Jersey City Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, on Nov. 13, part of the annual commemoration held at the site since 2008.
Although nearly all the veterans who attended the event wore uniforms, these were not uniforms of the various military services but rather the uniforms of EMTs or paramedics – highlighting a continuing dedication to service even after their tours of duty in the military have ended.
Hospital workers and members of the hospital’s EMT team helped hoist the American flag to a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Members of the hospital’s senior staff also braved the brisk air to commemorate Veterans Day, and honor those who have served or are in service currently with a flag-raising and luncheon.
The ceremony, led by Michael Prilutsky, president and CEO of JCMC, honored veterans from the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and others, including Nicole McCabe, who is a Purple Heart medial recipient and Jersey City resident, who enlisted to the U.S. Marine Corps after 9/11.
McCabe, who was supposed to attend, but could not at the last minute, is a paramedic and served as a field radio operator, and studied Hudson County Community College.
The Purple Heart is a combat decoration, awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded or killed while serving.
Still serving the community
In paying tribute to a number of military veterans employed at the JCMC, Prilutsky said the training and experience these men and women got while serving their country also continued to help people through their service at the hospital.
This was particularly true of Ronald Tyson, a paramedic and JCMC EMS Supervisor, who has served more than 14 years in the U.S. Air Force.
A master sergeant, Tyson said he had worked as a security guard for a while.
“But that went nowhere,” he said. “I joined the Air Force and they assigned me as a medical technician. It started me in a medical career.”
Currently a resident of Carlstadt, Tyson lived in Hudson County for a few years. He said he served as EMT, and later became a paramedic.
The military was an important transition in his life, he said.
“I just wanted to be part of something bigger than myself,” he said.
Although he remained in the United States for his entire military career, he was involved in helping people through his medical training, and learned enough to use these skills once out of service.
Prilutsky said JCMC and the community benefited from such experience, enabling these veterans to serve the community as they did when serving in the military.
He said many of the skills that veterans developed in the service also made them valuable and capable employees.
Hospital officials said more than 60 percent of the EMTs and paramedics employed at JCMC have a military background.
This is not something that is required to work at the hospital, but apparently veterans of the military continued to be drawn to professions that allow them to continue providing service. Hospital officials also said they did not particularly look for EMTs or paramedics when looking to honor veterans, but said those who responded for the event seemed to gravitate to those fields after leaving service.
These employees come from throughout Hudson County and throughout the state, such as Santos Guzman, a Bayonne resident, who works as a Patient Care Technician and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
As part of the hospital’s tradition in honoring them, each veteran received a pin in commemoration for their service.
Others honored at the event included Joseph Cianci, director of Radiology-Diagnostics, who served in the Army; Litza De Jesus, an EMS Paramedic, who served in the Air Force; Melissa Isidro, an EMS supervisor, who served in the Air Force; Jordan Midgley, an EMT, who served in the Army; Marco Navarro, an EMT who served in the Marines; Fernando Salas, an EMS supervisor who served in the Army; Muhammed Shonabire, a paramedic who served in the Army; Robert Verpent, an EMS supervisor, who served in the Army; and Carlos Aguilar, who works in the Radiology Department and served in the Marines.
“Thank you to all our veterans for your courage, sacrifice, and invaluable service to our country,” said Prilutsky. “To all the veterans on staff, Jersey City Medical Center is fortunate to have such highly talented and dedicated individuals serving our patients and families every day and providing the highest level of care to our community.”