The Union City Veterans and Marine Corps JROTC celebrate 1st. Annual Reunion!

War Veterans, young cadets and the alumni of the prestigious Marines Corps JROTC program celebrated their first annual reunion tonight at the José Martí Freshman Academy. The program has been extremely effective in guiding our young on the road of success, never forgetting the ones that placed themselves in the line of fire to preserve our freedom. From left to right: Union City war veterans Richard Clerici, Enzo Neri, John Cingirre, US Marine Sgt. Caonabo Reyes, who was recently appointed by UC Mayor Brian Stack Union City Veterans Affairs Coordinator, and J. Patrick Hein. Our gratitude and admiration to these honorable men, their old wounds and battlefield stories are part of the great history of America.

The event’s organizers: Sgt, Reyes; Nivia Rojas-Lopez, Director of Union City School Based Services; and Eliseo Alemán, Vice Principal of The José Martí Freshman Academy.

Michael Appelgren, JROTC alumnus 2002 delivered the following words in his keynote speech:

The Marine Corps Junior ROTC program encourages cadets to strive for the best. This program has given me the courage to be able to stand here and address you all tonight. But first of all I want to start off by welcoming everyone here, the Honorable Mayor of Union City Brian P. Stack, esteemed guests, veterans, past and present cadets, family and friends. I am honored to have been asked by the gunny to address you all tonight.

Those of you who have had the pleasure of knowing and speaking to the gunny know that he is a man who speaks his mind, who has a way with words, and who comes up with unique statements in order to motivate the cadets. To this day I wonder where he comes up with them? I remember during battalion formations when cadets’ uniforms were not pressed, he would come up to us and say “you look like a seabag with eyes.” Other mottos, maybe not as graphic but equally influential and memorable from my time as a cadet are: “you lead from the front, not from the rear,” and “leadership is the art of influencing others in such a way as to obtain their complete obedience in order to accomplish a mission or task”.

I was in the ROTC program my last three years of high school and I still remember certain lessons and experiences as if it were yesterday. One of my fondest memories includes going to Fort Dix and Quantico for several days in which we were subjected to some of the same training newly enlisted men and women go through during boot camp.

I will never forget waking up at the crack of dawn to a bunch of yelling drill instructors, the confidence course, the leadership course, the obstacle course, the physical training, and my favorite: jumping off the repel tower. I believe all of these experiences have instilled character, leadership, and a sense of citizenship within me. Other memories include hosting the first annual drill competition at Emerson High School, doing various volunteer projects and of course going to drill competitions always trying to beat our rival, who at the time was Rahway High School.

I probably would not have had the skills to stand up here had I not had experience of addressing over 100 cadets my senior year of high school during battalion formations. Whether consciously or subconsciously, the ROTC program has motivated me to always strive for excellence and be number one.

In high school I was selected to be commanding officer of the ROTC as well as valedictorian of Emerson High School’s graduating class of 2002.

My first two years of undergraduate I attended Georgetown University and later decided to transfer to Seton Hall where I graduated “Cum laude” with a bachelor’s degree in arts. I then continued to graduate school at Seton Hall where I graduated with honors with a masters in education and I am currently going for my advanced degree in order to become certified as a school psychologist. I am finishing my internship hours at Roosevelt School here in Union City and will be graduating this December. I will not settle for just the minimum and will pursue getting my doctorate.

I attribute my drive, motivation, and fire to the ROTC program and instructors. Thank you for your time and enjoy the evening.

Celebrating their first annual reunion the alumni were present at tonight’s event. From left to right Staling Espinal, Jessika Flores, Sgt. Reyes, Michael Appelgren, and Ryan Weatherford.

Union City Commissioner Lucio Fernandez and Sgt, Caonabo Reyes at tonight’s celebration.


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