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Alex Saldana is Oradell Scout who played tap dance at the veterans’ Paramus home

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Amid the fears and uncertainties of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, there was one constant Paramus veterans could count on: the clear sounds of a trumpet playing a tribute every night.

When news emerged that veterans were dying from COVID-19 at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus, Alex Saldana, a 15-year-old scout from Oradell Troop 36, wanted to make sure the veterans didn’t feel alone.

Every evening for a month, starting in early April, Saldana would tap her trumpet outside the Veterans’ House in remembrance of those who have died and to bring some comfort to the others in the building. ‘outside. Eighty-one veterans have died at the Paramus site due to COVID-19.

Left, Alex Saldana, a life scout, who played taps every night outside the NJ Veterans Home in Paramus during the height of the pandemic, handed over donations he collected for his Eagle Scout project at the Veterans Home in Paramus, NJ on Friday June 25, 2021.

However, he didn’t want to stop there. When looking to complete an Eagle Scout project, Saldana saw the perfect opportunity to continue supporting veterans.

“These are people who made a sacrifice for our country and I really wanted to show them that they were not forgotten and that people cared about them,” said Saldana.

Throughout the month of June, Saldana collected diabetic socks, sweatshirts and shirts, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel and other essentials. He left nearly 3,000 flyers on doorsteps in Oradell to let people know what he was looking for.

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Saldana’s efforts paid off when he and 20 other Scouts collected more than 5,000 items, plus $ 11,000 to purchase more supplies.

Retired Army Sgt.  Robert Hayes, a resident of Veterans Home, greets as Alex Saldana plays Taps.  Alex Saldana, A Life Scout, who played nightly taps outside the NJ Veterans Home in Paramus during the height of the pandemic, handed over the donations he collected for his Eagle Scout project at the Veterans Home to Paramus, NJ on Friday June 25, 2021.

“I felt proud to spread this awareness among veterans and to see the community care so much,” said Saldana. “I am so grateful to the community that has come together to help.”

Tribute to veterans is personal to Saldana, as her father served in the Marine Corps. David Saldana now works in the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department.

“It brings tears to my eyes and I choked a bit,” David Saldana said of Alex’s efforts. “He is overwhelming joy, and I am very proud of him. “

While the original plan was to donate to the Paramus Home, the teens raised enough to send donations to two other New Jersey veterans homes – in Menlo Park and Vineland.

David Saldana, Alex's father, helps unload the donation boxes.  Alex Saldana, Life Scout, who played taps every night outside the NJ Veterans Home in Paramus during the height of the pandemic, handed over the donations he collected for his Eagle Scout project to the Veterans Home in Paramus , NJ, on Friday June 25, 2021.

Saldana’s commitment will not end there. He has a three-year plan to improve the area around the Paramus house, including renovating the garden, painting the atrium, and installing benches.

Patricia Gros, volunteer coordinator for the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, said Saldana touched many lives with her dedication to tap dancing early in the pandemic.

“At such a young age, it had an impact on many of our residents who live here,” said Gros. “It meant a lot to us. We are really very grateful to our veterans.

The Paramus house was not the only place where Saldana used her skills as a trumpeter to pay homage to veterans. Oradell recently organized the Black Poster Project in partnership with Alumni In Recovery, which displays photos of people in the community who have lost their battle with drug addiction.

In a special section that featured photos of veterans, Saldana played tap dancing to honor them.

“He is a unique and incredibly generous young man who is dedicated to giving all his respect to the veterans of our country,” said Mayor Diane Didio.

His skills as a trumpeter and his commitment to honoring veterans have also caught the attention of the Bergen County Veterans Services Division, who want him to perform at their POW-MIA ceremony in September. Yahaira Padilla, executive assistant to the director of Veterans Services for Bergen County, said Saldana also provides them with some of her donations to give to veterans across the county.

“The love for one’s country and the love for one’s neighbor is incredible to see,” said Padilla.

Stephanie Noda is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ snoda11



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