Spring 2011 Edition NJDMAVA Veterans

About NJ Veteran Journal:
The New Jersey Veteran Journal is an official publication of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and is intended to serve New Jersey's veterans, their families, friends and concerned individuals and groups. All correspondence should be sent to:

Veteran Journal Editor, NJDMAVA/PA, PO Box 340,
Trenton, NJ 08625-0340

Survivor Outreach provides for fallen warriors' families
By Sgt. Wayne Woolley, DMAVA Public Affairs

Military spouses and parents say they must survive an overwhelming crush of emotions when their loved one dies in a combat theater of operations. In the days, weeks and even months after that fateful knock on the door, Casualty Assistance Officers help grieving families navigate a bureaucratic tangle of paperwork and other arrangements.

But some families have found that unresolved issues or questions sometimes surface months or even years after the Casualty Assistance Officer has concluded his or her services.

For families in New Jersey, that's where Terese Acocella and Robert Engel come in.

They are the coordinators of National Guard Survivor Outreach Services, part of a nationwide multi-service effort to deliver services to surviving family members ranging from financial matters; to insurance; to questions about benefits through the U.S. Veterans Affairs and other agencies.

"It's our job to be available to these families for as long as they need us," Engel said. "The length of our services never expires."

In February, Acocella and Engel played host to more than two dozen of their counterparts from states along the East Coast for a two-day conference at Atlantic City. All of the coordinators are civilian contractors, although nearly all have a military connection. Acocella is a lieutenant colonel in the New Jersey Army National Guard and Engel is a retired New Jersey Air National Guard chief master sergeant.

Conference attendees got the latest updates on available services from representatives of organizations such as Army One Source, Tricare and the VA.

The highlight of the event, however, was a panel made up of six Gold Star families who talked about the challenges they faced after losing a son, or daughter or husband, or wife in combat.

"Hearing the personal stories about how difficult things can be even years after a death was a big motivator for all the SOS coordinators," Engel said. "Serving these families is what we do."

To contact an SOS coordinator in New Jersey, please call Terese Acocella at 609-851-2257 or Robert Engel at 609-530-6853.

Story by Staff Sgt. Armando Vasquez, DMAVA Public Affairs

With veterans from past and present wars in attendance, New Jersey Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg spoke about the importance of recording their history during the Veterans History Project training workshop held at Rutgers University Student Center on Jan. 31.

He was instrumental in organizing the event along with Rutgers University to train interviewers to record oral histories from New Jersey war veterans.

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project was started in 2000 and its goal is to record and preserve the stories of veterans from all wars. The project mirrors Rutgers Oral History Archives, which was started in 1994.

So far, the Veterans History Project has collected more than 70,000 entries from veterans all over the United States, including 1,000 from New Jersey.

Rutgers Oral History Archives is an enterprise to record the personal experience of Rutgers University alumni and New Jersey residents who served on the home front or overseas during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War, and it includes more than 1,000 interviews with veterans.

"Our country owes them their gratitude," said Lautenberg, 87, a veteran of World War II.

"The best sources possible are those who lived the experience," said Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs, Raymond L. Zawacki, who is also a Vietnam veteran.

In addition to these two projects, the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey, with locations at Sea Girt and Lawrenceville, has a mission of preserving and explaining the military heritage of New Jersey, and enhancing the public understanding of how armed conflicts and military institutions shape our state and national experience.

Furthermore, the museum collects preserves and displays artifacts and related memorabilia that have specific historical significance within the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard.

Present at the workshop to tell their stories were Justin Sasso from Holmdel and Joe Nyzio from Bordentown, both Iraq War veterans; Danielle Peloquin from South Brunswick, a Vietnam War veteran; and World War IIveterans Arthur Seltzer from Cherry Hill, and Tom Mahoney from Union Township.

"I've never had the opportunity," said Sasso, 32, realizing that he had never sat down and told his story from start to finish.

"It's kind of hard to look at the present and call it history," he said.