American Homefront

In early 2017, WUSF joined the national American Homefront project, a national collaborative covering military life and veterans issues.

We're visiting bases to chronicle how American troops are working and living. We're meeting military families. We're talking with veterans -- in their homes, on their jobs, at school, at VA hospitals -- to learn about the challenges they face.

Partners in the project include WUSF, KPBS in San Diego and North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC.

The American Homefront project in Tampa builds on the success of WUSF's Off The Base project, which was created through a 2010-2011 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship to build a bridge between the civilian community and active-duty military, veterans and their families.

American Homefront receives support from: The Bob Woodruff Foundation, dedicated to ensuring that post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families make a successful transition.  

Col. Lenny Richoux was certainly a popular commander when running Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base. He started a friends of MacDill program to encourage civilian members of the community to visit the base and get to know its work and people.

Richoux also worked to expand services to military families, about 80 percent of them, living off base in communities such as Brandon. So, it’s no wonder that this billboard appeared in Brandon.

For one year, the voice of retired Senior Master Sergeant Rex Temple, brought comfort to the thousands of wives, husbands, parents and children of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now that voice will be preserved forever in a radio series called “My Last Tour” -- in the US Library of Congress as part of the Veteran's History Project.

MacDill AFB

Every two years MacDill Air Force Base gets a new commander. Col. Lenny Richoux will hand over control of the 6th Air Mobility Wing and Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base Friday at 9 a.m. in a Change of Command Ceremony.

Richoux said he’s leaving MacDill and the 2600 airmen of the 6th Air Mobility Wind in good hands. He knows his successor well, Col. Scott DeThomas.

(PHOTO/Chase Anz, Viewer Bay News 9)

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo plane carrying 23 passengers and19 crew made an unscheduled landing at Tampa's general aviation airfield, Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands just south of downtown.

Video of the landing courtesy of Ryan Gucwa can be seen on the website Aviation News in the Raw.

The runway at Peter O. Knight is much shorter than most military landing strips, at only 3,400 feet, and used mostly by small private aircraft and helicopters. The runway at MacDill AFB is 14,000 feet long by comparison.

Efforts to reduce the national deficit could mean massive job losses for Florida if the Department of Defense has to comply with the automatic spend cuts scheduled at the end of 2012.

People lined up the streets in Downtown Tampa today to honor fallen army Staff Sergeant Ricardo Seija who died in Afghanistan earlier this month.

One of the more than 50 people who lined up on the corner of Bayshore Boulevard and Bay to Bay Boulevard was Stuart Taijeron.

He calls himself a military brat and says today's escort was personal to him.

"So I left work and brought my family out to show them some of the aspects of where we should have pride and who we should appreciate," he said, " I mean our true heroes versus some of the things we see on TV."

Sarah Curran / WUSF

On the corner of Bayshore Boulevard and Bay to Bay Boulevard, more than fifty people watched today as the escort for Army Staff Sgt. Ricardo Seija made its way through Tampa.  He is one of two fallen Bay area heroes, both killed by the same roadside bomb in Afghanistan on July 8th. 

The supporters included about a dozen Red Cross members.  Tampa Bay chapter CEO Linda Carbone says the organization offers an emergency calls service for military serving overseas.  She says the calls keep servicemen informed of any medical emergency back home.

Over the next two days, MacDill Air Force Base will serve as the transfer point for two Tampa Bay Area fallen soldiers killed in a bomb blast two Sundays ago in Afghanistan.

Arriving Today

The transfer for Army Staff Sgt. Ricardo Seija is scheduled today, Tuesday at 11 a.m. under the care of the Air Force 6th Air Mobility Wing and with Seija's family on the flightline to welcome him home.

Three of MacDill Air Force Base's finest retired today -- after serving a combined total of 217 years.

Dog years--that is.

After a fulfilling career of multiple deployments and secret service missions, German Shepherds Conny, Jago, and Haris were honored in a ceremony at the Tampa base.

K-9 Conny had the most accomplished career. Deployed to Afghanistan twice and Iraq three times, she is credited with supporting 12 secret service missions.

Just weeks before Clarence Williams III, 23, was scheduled to return from Afghanistan, the Brooksville soldier was killed by an explosive device that also took the life of a man who graduated from a Tampa high school.

Williams' sister, Abrill Edwards, told the Tampa Bay Times that she talked with her brother on Sunday, the day he was killed. She said her brother read the Bible daily and confirmed he was due to come home in two or three weeks.

Bay Pines VA

A recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General finds that Bay Pines VA Health System in Bay Pines, Florida failed to provide adequate follow-up care for veterans considered at high risk for suicide.

There's more emphasis being placed on suicide prevention and follow-up care because of the increased rate of suicide among veterans and active duty service members.

Military Order of the Purple Heart

This year, lawmakers gave Florida’s chief judges the power to set up a “Veterans Docket” for military members and veterans in minor legal trouble. Retired Army Reserve Brigadier General and Okaloosa County Judge T. Patt Maney advocated for the idea.

MilitaryFactory.com

Forged from the steel of the World Trade Center, the USS New York will make Florida's Naval Station Mayport its home port sooner than expected.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced Friday that the USS New York  is scheduled to move from its current home port in Norfolk, VA in the last quarter of 2013. That's ahead of schedule by more than a year. The USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry will follow in 2014.

Bobbie O'Brien

On Tuesday, 74 war veterans and their guardians will lift off from the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport headed to the nation's capital. It's called an "Honor Flight" and it's designed to give veterans a day in Washington DC to visit the memorials.

World War II Veteran and retired Circuit Judge John P. “Jack” Griffin and his son, Tampa attorney Chris Griffin, will be on that plane.

Bobbie O'Brien

After 10 years of war, the number of veterans is growing and so are their needs. Stetson University's College of Law responded by establishing the Stetson Veterans Law Institute at its Gulfport campus.

It was a long road getting established. The way was led law professor Charlie Rose III, director of Stetson’s Center for Excellence in Advocacy, who is also a retired U.S. Army major.

Tampa Police Department

Army Sergeant Johnny Aparicio, currently based at Central Command on Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, can rest easy. A fourth and final suspect is under arrest in connection with the May 13th early morning attack on the soldier.

Brandon Miller, 18,  surrendered at the Orient Road Jail and will face a judge Wednesday.

Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/MCT

An Army World War II Veteran, who was awarded the Bronze Star as a medic in the Battle of the Bulge and honored by France with its Chevalier Legion of Honour, received another distinction from the State of Florida this year.

Photo by Bobbie O'Brien

The wail of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” The sharp crack of three rifle volleys being fired. The playing of “Taps.”  All the traditional Memorial Days moments were present at the MacDill Air Force Base Memorial Day ceremony.

Also there in full dress uniform: units from Special Operations Command, Central Command, the Joint Communications Special Element and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Military families and dozens of civilians, invited by MacDill Air Force Base Commander Col. Lenny Richoux, sat on folding chairs under the morning sun.

You can locate a VA National Cemetery nearest you that is holding a 2012 Memorial Day Ceremony HERE.

FLORIDA MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONIES

SUNDAY, MAY 27

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed hundreds of special operations forces from 90 different nations at a Gala Dinner Wednesday night in Tampa. It's part of the International Special Operations Forces Week held every four years. You can hear her full 25 minute speech unedited by clicking on the icon above.

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