Spring 2009 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

Women Vets Commission gets to work
Photo and story by Wayne Woolley, NJDMAVA/PA

A Soldier who served in Iraq, a former Navy welder, an Air Force refueler pilot, two Marines and a World War II veteran long recognized as one of New Jersey’s most passionate veterans’ advocates.

Those are the backgrounds of just a few of the members of the state’s newest veterans’ advisory board, the Commission on Women Veterans.

The 15-member body held its first monthly meeting on Jan. 29 and began laying plans for an ambitious outreach program for women who took off their military uniform for the final time decades ago as well as those still actively serving.

Volunteers helping Menlo residents
Marine Corps veteran Marinee Temme (l-r) and Navy Reservist Jennifer L. Tanforan listen as Air National Guard Maj. Yvonne Mays makes a point and Army National Guard Lt. Col. Terese Acocella looks on. The women were attending the first meeting of the New Jersey Commission on Women Veterans on Jan. 27.
Air Force Command Master Sgt. Donna Wertz, a commission member, said women who have experienced combat in America's ongoing conflicts deserve special attention.

“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have opened a lot of people’s eyes,” said Wertz, who is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Females, when they get home, often have no where to turn. They don’t want to be seen as whiners. But they still may need help.”

Gov. Jon Corzine signed the law creating the commission and its charter to assess the needs of women veterans and to recommend changes or improvements to programs, policies and laws that affect them. Twelve of the commission members must be women. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs retired Col. Stephen G. Abel serves as one of three ex officio members as does a representative from the Department of Community Affairs and from the Department of Labor.


Lt. Col. Terese B. Acocella, New Jersey Army National Guard
Virginia Dempsey, Disabled American Veterans
Anna Hoffman, Womens Army Corps
Maj. Kimberly Jamison, Air Force
Capt. Gwyn R. Johnson, Coast Guard
Mary J. Kelly, Military Order of the Purple Heart
Maj. Yvonne Mays, New Jersey Air National Guard
Lisa Szymanski, American Veterans
Jennifer L. Tanforan, Navy
Marinee Temme, Marine Corps
Chief Master Sgt. Donna Wertz, Veterans of Foreign Wars
Anna Elizabeth Yersevich, American Legion
Ex-Officio Members
retired Col. Stephen G. Abel, DMAVA
Janice Kovach, Department of Community Affairs
Tracie Yeoman, Department of Labor

At the commission’s first meeting held at the Brig. General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown, the representatives heard from Raymond Zawacki, the state adjutant for the American Legion, who serves on the state Veterans’ Services Council. He promised the women an exhilarating experience and recommended they establish contacts at all U.S. Veterans Administration facilities serving New Jersey as well as DMAVA facilities, such as Veterans Haven, a transitional housing facility for homeless veterans located in Winslow Township.

Several of the commission members still in uniform said they anticipate the greatest needs of the newest veterans will be counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder. Others anticipate that some women returning from combat zones may have been victims of sexual assault or harassment, a situation common enough that the VA has a name for it: military sexual trauma.

“It’s one of the things that people don’t like to talk about, but needs to be addressed,” said Maj. Yvonne Mays, a commission member who serves in the New Jersey Air National Guard.

Commission members said they also want to make more women who have served in the military – especially those that served long ago – aware they have veterans’ status and may qualify for various benefits.