(L to R) Eunice Woo, Lydia Cristobal ’16 DNP, and Jessica Ramos connect after the veterans recognition ceremony.

Veterans in Bayonne, N.J., were honored in a formal ceremony and reception hosted at Bayonne Medical Center and co-organized by the Yale Veterans Association (YVA) and CarePoint Health, a medical group that serves the Hudson County area.

The veterans, who served in the military between 1955 and 1975, were each presented with a special limited-edition lapel pin and certificate authorized by the U.S. Department of Defense to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and recognize the three million Americans who served in uniform during that period.

The honored veterans consisted of local residents and hospital employees. At the ceremony, which was attended by more than 60 people, they were joined by family and friends, representatives of different veteran service organizations, hospital staff members and administrators, and members of the Yale alumni veteran community.

The simple but dignified ceremony elicited strong emotions from honorees and audience members.

“Some of the veterans, family members, and guests were so touched and moved by the whole thing that they cried,” said Capt. Lydia Cristobal ’16 DNP, a U.S. Army Reservist and YVA board member, who spearheaded the event.

For Jessica Ramos, the emergency department nurse manager at Bayonne Medical Center, attending the ceremony was an incredibly meaningful experience.

“Being afforded the opportunity to witness an event that honors our brave men and women from our military, and expressing our appreciation and gratitude, was powerful as well as humbling,” she said.

Capt. Lydia Cristobal ’16 DNP presents Vietnam War-era veterans with lapel pins honoring their service.

Cristobal, who works as a transitional care unit administrator at CarePoint Health, came up with the idea for the ceremony when she first met and struck up a conversation with John Malecky, a U.S. Army veteran and former battalion chief for the Bayonne Fire Department, who at the time was an outpatient at Bayonne Medical Center and wearing a Vietnam War veterans baseball cap. Malecky was unaware of the Vietnam War-era lapel pins, nor of his entitlement as an eligible veteran. That conversation prompted Cristobal to find a way to publicly recognize him and other veterans for their service.

Malecky was very proud to be among the honored veterans at the ceremony. He expressed his hope that the service and sacrifices of all veterans, both past and present, are never taken for granted by the nation.

“Veterans must never be forgotten,” he said.

According to Cristobal, there are plans to hold additional veteran ceremonies in the future at Bayonne and other network hospitals.

She added that the ceremonies would be part of a larger veteran-specific initiative. Dubbed Have You Ever Served in the Military?, this initiative, managed and designed by the American Academy of Nursing, seeks to train healthcare providers to better document their patients’ military background and diagnose service-related health concerns, which in turn would improve their ability to provide better treatment and care to veterans.

For Tom Opladen ’66, founder and president emeritus of the YVA, who assisted in the ceremony and had served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War era, the reaction from the honored veterans left an indelible impression.

“While standing at attention in fine military form, their silent expression of appreciation for being recognized and thanked was memorable,” he said. “I can still see the expressions on their faces.”


Photos courtesy Dr. Thomas Simpson

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