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Homefront Chaplain Team always on call
Photo and story by Wayne Woolley, NJDMAVA/PA

Even at 2 o’clock in the morning, 1st Lt. Andre Ascalon’s cell phone is within reach. Same goes for Lt. Col. Joanne Martindale. Ditto for Sgt. 1st Class Jeretha Prather.

The trio makes up the National Guard chaplain team that has been called to active duty in New Jersey this year to support the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployment to Iraq.

Since the unit mobilized, Chaplains Martindale and Ascalon and Prather, the chaplains’ assistant, have supported countless families in crisis in addition to the nearly dozen brigade Soldiers who have come home on emergency leave.

Martindale, who spent 2005 in Iraq ministering to the Soldiers of the former 42nd Infantry Division Support Command,

1st Lt. Andre Ascalon (l-r), Sgt. 1st Class Jeretha Prather, Col. Alphonse Stephenson and Lt. Col. Joanne Martindale are part of the Jersey Guard’s chaplain team. Chaplains' Ascalon and Martindale and chaplains’ assistant Prather, have been called to active duty this year to support the home-front needs for the Iraq deployment of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

has focused her current efforts on helping spouses and other family members form support groups to cope with similar problems, such as difficult pregnancies.

“My goal is to get folks together and let them eventually form their own group and then I go on to helping the next group form,” Martindale said. “Ministry to Soldiers and their families is our number one priority.”

Ascalon said he sometimes makes the greatest impact by just being there, whether it’s at an airport terminal to meet a Soldier on emergency leave or an armory gymnasium for a Family Readiness Group meeting.

“When the chaplain is there, people know somebody cares,” Ascalon said. “A lot of times, nothing even needs be said. It’s a ministry of presence.”

For Prather, her year in support of the 50th IBCT deployment is a continuation of an active-duty stint that began in 2004. She’s paid particular attention to the needs of Soldiers called home for emergency leave, often because of a death in their family.

She said helping Soldiers in their time of greatest need has been the highlight of a military career that’s spanned more than two decades.

“Some of the things I’ve helped people with have been very sad,” Prather said. “But it’s been the most rewarding period of my career.”

Although the deployment has kept the home-front chaplains busy, Martindale worries that there may be some families who don’t know this extra help is available.

“People need to know that we are here and we are available,” she said. “Any time.”

To reach the chaplains, call 609-694-0635 or 609-802-8125

The PosT-9/11 GI BIll

From the Department of Veterans Affairs

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a new education benefit for Airmen and Soldiers who served on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.

In order to be eligible, you must have served an aggregate of 90 days on active duty since Sept. 10, 2001 – or at least 30 continuous days on active duty and have been discharged due to a service-connected disability.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill you may receive up to 36 months of entitlements, which include:

- Amount of tuition and fees charged, not to exceed the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public institution of higher education;

- An annual stipend of up to $1,000 for books and supplies.

- A one-time payment of $500 to certain individuals relocating from highly rural areas and;

- A monthly housing allowance equal to the basic allowance for housing (BAH) amount payable to an E-5 with dependents, in the same zip code as the school paid to you.

One common question: How does the new GI Bill fit with other GI Bills?

It comes down to this: If, on Aug. 1, 2009, you are eligible for any of the GI Bill programs, you may opt for the Post-9/11 version, which will eliminate you using the other programs. In most cases, benefits under the newest GI Bill are more generous than under previous plans.

To learn more, visit:


Table of Contents
Volume 34 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2008 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs