Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

May is Military Appreciation Month and mentors are needed to help NJ veterans transition to civilian life both here in New Jersey and across the country.

Nearly 200-thousand men and women leave the U.S. Military service each year. The transition out of uniformed service can be difficult.

Onward Ops and the PenFed Foundation, both veteran nonprofit organizations, are teaming up to empower service members as they transition from military service to civilian life.

Onward Ops pairs new veterans with mentors from their community, focusing on the 12 months before leaving the military and reintegrating into civilian life. The program helps service members begin new lives and stay ahead of serious issues like suicide, PTSD and homelessness.

10-thousand service members were enrolled in the program last year.

Brigadier General Mike Eastman and Andrea McCarren from the PenFed Foundation joined Jim Monaghan on Jersey Magazine to talk about this important endeavor.


JIM MONAGHAN – General Eastman, you’ve had six combat deployments. What is it like transitioning back from that to here in the United States?

GENERAL EASTMAN – It’s a challenge, right? But I don’t think that it’s a necessarily tied to combat experience or combat deployments.

It’s really about leaving a very structured and regimented organization with sort of a common sense of bonding and mission and purpose. And then stepping into an environment as a veteran and as a civilian where you’re leaving that behind.

I think that’s where most veterans struggle. I wouldn’t necessarily correlate it to the number of deployments.

Although for many of our veterans that number is probably unacceptably high in terms of the number of tours they’ve done. It’s really more about a cultural change and a loss of identity that makes transition challenging for many.

JM – How much of the multiple deployments is due to the fact that it’s a volunteer military as opposed to when the draft was in effect?

GE – I’m not sure that I’m necessarily equipped to answer it. I would say that probably the volume of deployments that we see right now, part of that is because they are shorter.

Once upon a time, as you know, you would deploy to the war, you would spend four years there, the war would be over and you would come back.

But now because we’re trying to limit the time away that people spend, deployment cycles have much shorter, which causes repeated turns as the conflicts that we engage in, you know, still in many cases in recent history take a couple of decades.

So you know, what maybe my grandfather or great grandfather would have said I had one tour.

He would fail to mention that that was four-and-a-half, five years long.

JM – Andrea, let me ask you about the PenFed Foundation. Why did you partner with Onward Ops?

ANDREA McCARREN – The PenFed Foundation exists to empower veterans as they make that important transition from the military to becoming community assets in the civilian world.

I’m also the proud daughter of a late Air Force general. So that’s kind of the world I know and I now have become a staunch advocate for veterans because they are resilient.

They are natural born leaders. They have this extraordinary skill set.

And I also believe in the inherent goodness of Americans. All we are looking for is volunteers willing to give a few hours a week to a veteran to ensure their success.

Succeeding veterans is good for all of America.

You come from a military family as well. So you understand some of the challenges.

We truly believe that if we are proactive, if we set up transitioning veterans with one-on-one hometown mentors, they’ll have that support system that prevents some of the more challenging issues down the road.

Homelessness, substance abuse, military suicide, if we can get to them before they separate from the military, give them more confidence and give them that structure in the civilian world, they will succeed.

JM – How much did your dad talk about his military service, Andrea?

AM – Such a great question; very, very little.

JM – My dad too, my dad served at the end of World War II. And even though he saw no action whatsoever, he rarely spoke about it.

He would tell me about the ships that he was on. Yeah, I’d hear stories about the aircraft carrier that he was on and what have you.

And there’s a picture of him with a .45 strapped to his side. Never mentioned it, didn’t talk about it.

My his dad, my grandfather was also in the Navy. Never once did he mention anything about World War I.

My maternal grandfather passed away before I was born so I never got to know him. But I do know that he was wounded. It says on his military discharge papers, he was slightly wounded.

If you consider being gassed and having shrapnel in your body from a grenade being slightly wounded, then he was slightly wounded.

AM – I do think that’s a generational thing not to discuss it. And I think that’s where we really have evolved and advanced. It’s okay to talk about some of the challenges.

I think that’s a real positive. And the PenFed Foundation-Onward Ops partnership really paves the way for that open dialogue. And we just are looking for mentors and we’re also trying to spread the word so transitioning service members know about the great innovative program that is Onward Ops.

JM – General Eastman, let me ask you, I don’t know if you watched Masters of the Air or not that was on the nine-part series.

(My family has) a personal connection to this. My dad’s first cousin was a bombardier on a B-17 he was shot down shortly after D-Day in 1944.

He spent the last 11 months in a prisoner of war camp. That camp was in the series.

I had a chance to read his diaries and a lot of what was in his diaries managed to be included. He’s not mentioned at all in the in the film series whatsoever. But a lot of what he experienced was in there.

And all I could think about because the final episode is everybody coming home, because I know some of the story of his transition when he came back to the United States.

I’m watching all of these men who have flown in World War II, 8th Air Force, what have you all of these missions and you know what they’ve gone through. And they’re coming home and all I could think about was that transition.

Like all of a sudden here I am, I’m home. Now what?

GE – I think there is a commonality there. Certainly the way we’ve received our veterans back after the various conflicts has changed over time. I think we’re doing a much better job now.

I would say that you know it just on the one hand every service members transition into veteran status is unique.

Some saw some saw combat some did not some have medical challenges some do not.

But what do they share in common? They all really want to come back and be contributing. They want to leverage the skills and experiences that they’ve gained. And they can if we set them up for success.

So I think that is that commonality that we want to focus on.

I think about my dad coming back from Vietnam and transitioning. And then I try and juxtapose that with my own return from Iraq or Afghanistan.

What’s the first thing you realize?

It’s not natural to stay up 22 hours a day.

First thing, and second thing is you don’t really have to like organize every single thing you do over those 22 hours, right? Which is the first thing that my family snaps me back into very quickly.

So yeah, I get it, right?

Everyone’s journey is different, but there is one thing we know and that’s with a little bit of help. They’re going to have a better outcome than if they’re left to navigate it on their own.

JM – Why do you think Vietnam veterans had so much difficulty? Maybe it’s because we’re learning about it more. But why did it seem that they had more difficulty transitioning back?

GE – I think that were better or for worse, public views on the war itself colored the way we treated the people that fought in that war.

Unfairly probably to them.

You know, as you know, there was the draft. These folks were not asking necessarily to participate.
But they went, they did their job to the best of their ability and they came home.

And because the public perception of the righteousness, the morality of that war wasn’t necessarily
where we would want it to be or it wasn’t very positive, it transferred over into the service members themselves.

As I told the soldiers and sailors and airmen that I led, you know, really all you can do is your mission to the best of your ability. And when you’re in that environment, I don’t care about the political environment around me.

I care about the lives and the livelihood of the service member to my left and to my right. And as long as you’re doing that, you should be justifiably proud in your service.

JM – My son has a very good friend who’s been deployed a couple of times and in fact, he’s overseas right now. And he said almost that very same thing.

It’s not what I believe in as much as I’m serving my country. And it’s very profound to hear that come from a young guy who’s in his, I think he’s in his late twenties right now.

Andrea, you mentioned the need for mentors. If WDHA and WMTR listeners are involved or interested in becoming mentors, how do they do that?

AM – We would love to have your listeners go to our website, Whether they want to become a mentor or explore that possibility or whether they are a transitioning service member or have a loved one.

That is who would like to sign up free of charge to onward ops and become part of this innovative groundbreaking program.


New Jersey Assemblyman Brian Bergen was a guest on the WDHA Morning Jolt speaking on assisting NJ veterans.

  • Tips On Handling Grief After A Loss

    Handling grief is something that sooner or later we all must come to terms with.

    As we mark the four-year anniversary of the COVID epidemic, many of us lost friends and loved ones and have had to come to terms with their passing.

    Claire Bidwell Smith, LCPC is a therapist who specializes in dealing with grief.

    The author of five books of nonfiction, her latest book, Conscious Grieving: A Transformative Approach to Healing from Loss, is especially poignant given how many friends and loved ones we may have lost in recent years to COVID.

    Interview Excerpts – Conscious Grieving

    JM – When did you start writing this book?

    CBS – Just in the last couple of years. Yeah, I, um, I’ve seen a lot of changes since we went through the pandemic, a lot of new conversations around grief.

    Obviously we all experienced grief and loss on such a huge scale. But I started to see how people were beginning to think about grief in a new way and recognize how much of it is with us throughout our lives.

    JM – You mentioned COVID and it’s four years this week when everything kicked in with the lockdowns and everything. And I’m reminded of about the three weeks afterwards, the first friend I lost to COVID happened at the very end of the month of March in 2020.

    He was 30 years old, in the prime of his life in excellent health. And that was, I think the first time I thought, boy, this thing may really, really be serious.

    CBS – Yeah, that is so heartbreaking. I am so sorry.

    Handling grief after losing a parent

    JM – We each experience grief in different ways. About five years ago, in fact, it’ll be five this May, my mom passed away.

    When that happened, I said to my kids, I’m not going to post this on social media. I said, this is how I’m going to deal with it.

    You do what you want. My kids are far more active in social media than I am. So I didn’t tell them not to like you do what you need to do here.

    But in reading your book, I’m wondering, was that me dealing with the loss of my mom, my own personal way of grieving? Or was I just delaying the whole process?

    CBS – No, I think that was your own personal way of doing it. You know, I think that social media is a tricky thing when it comes to grief. We, some of us really want to talk openly and publicly about our losses. And others of us feel more private.

    It’s not something we feel ready to share or kind of subject ourselves to commentary or opinions and, you know, experiences like that. I think that you were right in telling your kids, this is how I’m going to do it. You do it however you like.

    We all, we all deal with grief in different ways. I think it’s natural to want to avoid it. It can feel so huge.

    Your mother, that the person that you have been with since the day you came into the world, it’s a huge loss at any age. That’s a really big loss.

    Sometimes I think we just aren’t sure how to hold that in our lives. And then sometimes people around us aren’t able to hold space for it either, and so we’re just not sure what to do with it.

    So we do avoid it when we avoid it. It can often spill out and anxiety, irritability, anger, sadness. And so I think when we can make space for it and making space for it, you know, looks like doesn’t have to be posting on social media.

    It can look like just spending some time thinking about her, maybe lighting a candle in the evening and just having a moment of reflection, talking about her with your family, writing about her, writing to her.

    There’s so many ways to make space for our own grief.

    Handling grief and anxiety

    JM – You mentioned anxiety. And in fact, one of your previous books dealt with anxiety and grief. How were they intertwined?

    CBS – Anxiety can often be the thing that spills out when we are suppressing our grief or avoiding it. But also we experienced anxiety after a big loss because our world changes so much.

    We may be unsure of how we can expect to show up in our daily lives. I think that most people are really surprised by the enormity of emotion that comes with with a big loss.

    And you may suddenly wonder, can I go to work today and, you know, not break down? Can I, you know, can I be with my family and not snap at people?

    So often that anxiety will begin to surface of just not really being sure of our landscape now after someone is gone, not to mention we’re confronting our sense of mortality.

    The year of “firsts”

    JM – Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it is dealing with our own mortality. You and I lost our respective fathers at around the same age. I think you were 25. That’s the age that I was when I lost my dad and he passed away very young and you’re dealing with all of that.

    You deal with those holidays and anniversaries that year of firsts and everyone goes through that. And you kind of mentioned this, you referred to it lighting a candle and things like that.

    But you offer some very, very interesting ways to honor someone who has passed.

    CBS – I do. I think, I think, you know, you’re right, those those days are so hard that year of firsts is so hard. The first time you want to call someone in can’t, you know, the first time you go through a birthday or a holiday that you always celebrated with them.

    So again, taking that time to kind of make space around those events, I think is important.

    Now, it’s also okay to want to close the blinds and just, you know, ignore the day, especially in the beginning, it can be really overwhelming.

    But I think we can instate traditions that feel really good and healing to us.

    Maybe you’re making your person’s favorite dish at a holiday gathering, or maybe you’re just setting out a photo of them at a wedding you’re attending or, you know, maybe you’re writing them a letter on a meaningful anniversary day and just acknowledging the relationship you had with them.

    That relationship continues, you know, we have an internal relationship with the people we lose. It could be spiritual, it could just simply be internal.

    But I think finding ways to honor that relationship and honor the time and the love we had with that person is really important.

    The importance of laughter

    CBS – We can hold multiple feelings when we’re grieving. We can hold joy and we can hold sorrow, anxiety, guilt, all kinds of things. There’s not just one feeling and one emotion.

    Giving ourselves that permission to laugh, that can be a release too, you know, and it can remind us that we’re still here, that there is still life to live.

    We can celebrate someone’s life. We can celebrate the time we had with them. Those things are so important. I think we see a lot of depictions on television and movies of what grief looks like that you’re, you know, shrouded in sorrow in a dark room.

    Yes, there are absolutely periods of time like that. But then there’s also just our regular inherent personalities and life and celebrations.

    Learn more about Claire Bidwell Smith on her website

  • Rock N Ruff

    It’s your rock and roll dog lover- Terrie Carr, and I want to introduce this week’s Rock N’ Ruff segment with Fawna and Star From All Humane Animal Rescue in Wanaque! This is their first time on Rock N’ Ruff and the DHA Rock N’ Ruff Program always enjoys meeting new friends that help our furry friends find homes-

    ABOUT ALL HUMANE ANIMAL RESCUE- (As Their Website states) 

    “Our mission is to do our best to have all unclaimed, stray, surrendered, abandoned and neglected/abused animals in our custody adopted into new and loving “furr-ever” homes. These animals did not ask to be forgotten about, abandoned in the streets, or due to circumstances in a home to be given up. They deserve to live a full life with love and a caring family.We are here to make sure that happens!!!!” 

    Sounds great to us!

    All Humane is foster based which means the pups in their care are in caring foster homes until they find their forever homes.

    So let’s talk about Fawna and her sister Star!  These sweet babies were found in a Rubbermaid container, outside a shelter in Texas and were lucky enough to get transported to New Jersey, with many other puppies and be taken in by All Humane. After being vetted, spayed and neutered, all of the puppies entered foster homes and are waiting to begin their forever lives. Fawna and Star are best buddies (Fawna a bit bossier!) and do not need to be adopted together.

    Both puppies are super friendly, affectionate, smart, playful and love people. They are thought to be Dachshund, maybe Basset , hound mixes are are expected to be medium sized dogs (on the smaller size of a medium). They are lovely little pups!

    You can reach out to our friends at “All Humane Animal Rescue” at the link below and read about the organization. As will many of our Rock N’ Ruff partners, they are always looking for volunteers.

    All Humane Animal Rescue.Org

    FAWNA & STAR  love to play

    Fana & Star


    TC With Fawna from All Humane

    We love being a part of the pups journey home and we are hoping Fawna, Star and the other dogs find their forever families!

    Opt To Adopt!

    Terrie Carr

    (And check out more of my exclusive pet-related content below!)

    WDHA’s Rock N’ Ruff with Stryker – The Shepherd

    Solar Eclipse Safety Tips For Your Pet

    TC’s Rock N’ Ruff Roundtable


  • Coach Sheets' Ride In

    Jeremy Sheetinger is the head baseball coach at Georgia Gwinnett College where he led the Grizz Gang to the 2021 NAIA National Championship.

    These quick hits may, on the surface, be geared toward his fellow baseball coaches, but his motivational message can easily be applied to the classroom, workplace, and your personal relationships.

    This morning, Coach Sheets talks about the 20/40/60 rules. What stage are you at in your life?

  • Local Look

    Looking for something fun to do in the area? Chris Swendeman has you covered with this week’s Local Look.

    There are always so many fun events happening in our local communities.  Check out what’s in store for this week in New Jersey.

    • Commemorate our planet with an Earth Day event in Montclair. The Earth Day 2024 celebration by the Northeast Earth Coalition takes place today from 9 AM to 1 PM at Crane Park on Glenridge Avenue.  There will be environmental displays, flower planting, live music and much more.
    • Enjoy a day out in Stirling for the Long Hill Chamber of Commerce’s annual Street Fair.  The fun takes place from 10 AM to 5 PM today along Main Avenue between Mercer and Somerset Streets. There will be vendors, exhibits, games and food trucks.
    • And this coming Thursday, join WDHA at the Prudential Center for Rock the Rockfest 2024. Staind, Seether, the Struts, Ayron Jones and Dayseeker, all on the main stage. Get your tickets at and full details at


    And that’s your Local Look for this week on The Jersey Magazine.  If you’d like your event to be featured on The Local Look, you can email us at [email protected].  See you next week on 105.5 WDHA.

Sign me up for the WDHA D-Club email newsletter!

Join the WDHA D-Club for access to all the perks delivered right to your inbox from The Rock of New Jersey! Get exclusive presale codes for upcoming shows, updates with your favorite rockers, contest info, and more.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.