DVIDS – News – A Gift: New Jersey Air Guardsman Returns to Vineland


“It’s a gift,” said John S. Walker.
This gift Walker is referring to is the resident defender at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland.
A typical day for Walker begins with making rounds of the residential areas of the house, conversing and interacting with residents and their family members. Walker spends an entire day in each neighborhood, immersing himself in the daily lives of locals.
“We have doctorates, we have doctors; we have very educated and accomplished people here,” he said. “It’s important to sit down and listen to the residents talking to each other; hear the person, get to see the person, not the resident, but the individual.
This eavesdropping also gives Walker greater insight into the residents of Vineland.
“I get the story beyond the books; stories that I never thought I would ask questions about,” he said. “I hear the struggles of a soldier; I hear the struggles of a woman, back when we weren’t so considerate of women in the service. I hear the man of color who had to navigate as a military man and while there were times when things weren’t fair at times, when they tell the story it’s never the main objective is their service to their country.
“Their strength and resilience is a standard we all need to pay close attention to,” Walker said.
This isn’t Walker’s first time serving at Vineland.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker, a medic with the 108th Medical Group, served as the first sergeant for a group of Airmen from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 108th Wing and 177th Fighter Wing who assisted Vineland staff with rapid COVID-19 testing, N95 mask fit testing, and resident life enrichment from September 2020 to June 2021. As a first sergeant, he provided readiness, health, morale and welfare of Airmen serving at home.
“I worked in life enrichment,” he said. “They did an amazing job of creating environments where family members could visit loved ones in a safe environment.”
Walker answered the phone, kept records, coordinated family visits, explained visitation policy and infection control guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My time there as a guard has been so enjoyable – the team, the residents, this community is so warm and welcoming,” Walker said. “I said to myself that if there was ever an opportunity to be part of this team, I would take it.”
That opportunity presented itself eight months later when the resident advocate position became available at the home.
“Resident Advocates allow residents to voice their concerns to an impartial individual who has direct reporting responsibilities to the Division of Veterans Health Services to ensure that all concerns are addressed appropriately and in a timely manner. timely,” said Rochelle Guglielmo, director of Veterans Health Services at the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Walker’s position was created by a bill that was approved by the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly on September 16, 2021. Through this bill, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs of New Jersey established a resident attorney in each of the state’s Veterans Memorial Homes. . While Walker works with Allyson Bailey, the CEO of Vineland, he reports directly to Guglielmo.
“The position of Resident Advocate adds another layer of resident advocacy that will help us ensure that the highest quality care continues to be provided in our homes to our resident population,” Bailey said.
Currently, two of the three homes have resident advocates. Jay Cantor is the resident attorney for the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus. The department advertises the position for the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park.
The Resident Advocate interacts with residents daily to identify issues or concerns and escalates them as needed to the Home’s CEO and Division Director, if resolution cannot be achieved at their level.
“My job here is somewhere between a first sergeant and a chaplain,” Walker said. “My experience in hospital chaplaincy, clinical pastoral education and training has helped prepare me for this.”
From 2019 to 2020, Walker completed two units – each consisting of 300 clinical hours and 100 academic hours of pastoral education and training at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Hamilton, New Jersey. During training, he served as a spiritual care provider for hospital patients, family members, hospital staff and support staff.
Walker, a traditional drill guard with 23 years of service, is the first sergeant in the 108th Medical Group. Because a first sergeant’s top priority is caring for people, this position and experience prepared Walker to work in Vineland.
Walker also meets with new home admissions and their family members to resolve any issues or concerns as the new resident acclimates to their new home.
“I had a family member come in and say, ‘it happened, and I don’t feel comfortable’ and after listening and evaluating, I learned who I should do. starts from a problem at the lowest level,” he said.
This lowest level problem solving approach is the product of his military training. In the military, problems are first dealt with at the lowest level where they can often be resolved more quickly.
“John is a terrific addition to our team,” Bailey said. “Our residents and our families embrace him and his new role. »
Other times it means lending an ear to someone.
“Listening to family members and filtering the real issues and concerns through the emotions, through the feelings, through the grief,” Walker said. “Sometimes a family member just needs to speak up.”
For Walker, who has been deployed to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and twice to Qatar, it’s like coming home every day.
“I have few gentlemen who advise me, they take care of me, I also found myself with several surrogate parents and grandparents,” he said.
The same pride Walker feels for serving in the New Jersey Air National Guard, he also feels for working at the Vineland Home.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of an organization where every leader was passionately resident-focused,” Walker said. “The main and only focus is the residents, and everything else is how we can do it better.”
Walker’s pride revolves around his respect for the residents.
“We lean on the shoulders of these great people. I feel honoured, I feel privileged, it is my gift from God to be here.

Date taken: 05.11.2022
Date posted: 05.11.2022 13:36
Story ID: 420479

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