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.  

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.

A “Smart Power Approach” is what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the combined civilian and military partnership aimed at diminishing “the appeal” of terrorism for the next generation.

Secretary Clinton spoke for nearly half-an-hour Wednesday at the International Special Operations Forces Industry Gala Dinner held at the Tampa Convention Center.

Bobbie O'Brien

Special Operations Forces like to be known as the “Quiet Warriors.” Yet, it was anything but quiet Wednesday as special forces teams from several countries held a “hostage rescue” demonstration as part of the International Special Operations Forces Week in Tampa.

“Obviously getting to fire a 50 caliber was pretty cool, the ultimate boy-toy,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said after volunteering to be the “hostage” during a mock rescue by dozens of special operations forces.

Photo courtesy of US Consulate.gov

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is coming to Tampa next week. She will be the keynote speaker for a gathering of international military forces.

Military delegates from 96 countries have been invited to the Special Operations Forces Week conference organized by Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command based at MacDill Air Force Base.

The conference focuses on “Building the Global SOF (Special Operations Forces) Partnerships.”

The Tampa Bay area is home to a large concentration of veterans and active duty military which prompted the  Stetson University College of Law to establish a Veterans Law Institute.

Part of the institute’s mission is setting up a Veterans Advocacy Clinic to help veterans seeking government benefits as well as assist those appealing decisions denying benefits. It will also partner with other organizations, including Legal Assistance for Warriors, to provide pro bono legal services for active duty personnel and their families.

A new program for military veterans interested in earning an MBA just received a $409,299 grant.

The College of Business at University of South Florida St. Petersburg is one of 12 organizations worldwide to win a grant from the Graduate Management Admission Council MET (Management Education for Tomorrow) fund.

The St. Petersburg program, “Leading in a Civilian Context: A Socially Responsible MBA for Returning Veterans,” begins in June with 20 openings for student veterans.

Military service is voluntary in the United States, but it’s a different story for the children born into military families. That’s an estimated 1.8 million children who face many unique challenges and stresses of military life not known by civilian kids.

“The frequent deployments often mom or dad is gone,” said Gail Mouse, director of MacDill’s Child Development Center 3. “As well as, they’re moving every two to three years. They don’t have the support systems that many of the civilian children have with having family right there.”

Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

Florida is home to more than 1.6 million veterans. So, it’s no surprise that Florida lawmakers passed several bills this session that benefit military veterans and active duty service members.

Among the bills agreed upon was the “T. Patt Maney Veterans Treatment Intervention Act.”

Named in honor of Okaloosa County Judge Maney, the bill authorizes each judicial circuit to set up a Veterans’ Court or program to handle the cases of veterans with psychological problems like substance abuse and PTSD or traumatic brain injury as a result of their military service.

The Florida Legislature has approved three veteran related bills this session including one that sets aside August 7th each year as Purple Heart Day.

The legislation does not establish an official government holiday, so state agencies, offices and the courts will remain open. What Purple Heart Day is meant to do: raise awareness and honor veterans who are wounded or have been killed in battle.

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