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New Jersey Airmen support homes for veterans

U.S. Air Force Capt. Sara Kucharski, a physician assistant with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Medical Group, at the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, N.J., Dec. 23, 2020. The Airmen are assisting the veterans' home staff with COVID-19 rapid testing, N95 mask fit tests, and life enrichment for residents.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Sara Kucharski, a physician assistant with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Medical Group, at the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, N.J., Dec. 23, 2020. The Airmen are assisting the veterans' home staff with COVID-19 rapid testing, N95 mask fit tests, and life enrichment for residents.

VINELAND, N.J. – Ten New Jersey Air National Guard Airmen from the 108th Wing and 177th Fighter Wing are activated and helping out at the Veterans Memorial Home as the staff continues to battle COVID-19.

The Airmen are conducting rapid COVID-19 testing for staff, which nets results in about 15 minutes, making sure N95 masks for staff fit properly and assisting with life enrichment for residents.

"Being part of the state's response to COVID has been exceptionally rewarding," said Capt. Sara Kucharski, a physician assistant with the 177th Fighter Wing who coordinates infection control for three New Jersey veterans' homes and two veterans' havens. "We have worked tirelessly with the state, as well as jointly with our fellow New Jersey Army Guard Soldiers, to help the fight against this invisible enemy."

COVID-19 protocols continue to restrict access to the veterans' homes. To keep connected with residents, families are relying on technology.

"This has been one of the most rewarding missions I've been a part of," said Tech. Sgt. John Walker, a medic with the 108th Medical Group. "We support our veterans who are at the age when they need a different type of support. I've been working in the life enrichment section helping to coordinate virtual visits and assisting with incoming donations, as well as soothing and comforting some of the family members who are struggling with not being able to see their loved ones."

"It feels pretty awesome to be a part of this mission," said Staff Sgt. Amy Amakihe, a medic with the 108th. "Being here at Christmas and to be able to talk with the residents and to bring a smile to their faces means a lot. I'm happy to help in any way that I can."

A total of 26 Soldiers and Airmen are activated and assisting at the three New Jersey veterans' homes.

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