NJ National Guard Serves at Veterans Memorial Home, Vineland

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jeffrey M. Silver, right, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 42nd Regional Support Group, NJ Army National Guard, is briefed by Staff Sgt. Pedro J. Benitez, Maintenance Squadron, 177th Fighter Wing, NJ Air National Guard, at the NJ Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland. Silver is serving the Home’s residents as the Vineland officer-in-charge.
Photography by Mark Olsen

A mission of the NJ Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland is part of the New Jersey National Guard’s Joint Task Force COVID Guardian, which includes supporting New Jersey’s three veterans homes and two transitional housing programs at Veteran’s Havens North and South.

Amidst the surge of Omicron variant cases of COVID-19, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs decided to assign more than 150 additional New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen to the homes. Currently, 50 soldiers and 22 airmen are serving at Vineland as certified nursing assistants and in food services, infection control, information technology, life enrichment, logistics, and COVID-19 testing.

“They came in at very critical time and they were a real benefit,” said Matthew Daher, assistant chief executive officer, Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland. “They are well trained, well mannered, and very respectful of our veterans.”

“The residents love them,” said Lisa Williams, director, Life Enrichment, Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland. “They’ve been interacting with residents, assisting them to and from their activities, they’ve helped us in decorating for special events; they’ve integrated and become part of our family.”

In addition to being CNAs, the soldiers and airmen have been working in food services, infection control, information technology, life enrichment, logistics, and testing.

The Vineland Home is unique among New Jersey’s three veterans’ homes. Since it opened in 1899, it has served veterans from every war since the Civil War. In 2005, it was completely rebuilt as a state-of-the-art nursing home. Today, 249 residents live there.

For Master Sgt. Kara Kauffman, Maintenance Squadron, 177th Fighter Wing, serving at Vineland is a perfect. Kauffman is a traditional Guardsman whose civilian job is working for the Gloucester County Veteran Affairs.

“I love it. I have a passion for vets,” said Kauffman. “I love working with the residents, I love seeing their faces, this is a great feeling, an honor to be here.”

“This is a place that will always have a special place in my heart,” Simms added.

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