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.  

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melissa V. Paradise) / MacDill Air Force Base

Today is Sequestration Day – the day that Congress’ mandatory budget cuts kick into gear a minute before midnight.  If that happens, it will take weeks, even months before the true impact is felt.

Florida’s Defense Industry and Military Bases

Gov. Rick Scott is certain of one thing - the mandatory budget cuts will severely hurt Florida’s defense industry. He says it contributes more than $73 billion and 754,000 jobs to the state economy.

All are welcome to a free screening of the documentary film The Welcome, which tracks veterans and their families through a five-day retreat that transforms the experience of war into "the beauty of poetry."

"Sometimes our wounds may (be) visible but often times, they are invisible. We have come together as a community and we are healing together," wrote Kiersten Downs, president of the University of South Florida Student Veterans Association.

The home to U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Air Force 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, is readying for mandatory cuts that will affect people, facilities and flight-readiness.

If sequestration - Congress’ mandatory budget cuts – goes into effect Friday, no state or facility will escape the shockwave.

Most of the 3,000 civilian workers at MacDill Air Force Base will essentially take a 20 percent cut in pay. Sequestration mandates that they take a weekly, one-day furlough beginning in late April through September.

Photo credit: Love My Rifle More Than You/Facebook

It was January 24th, just a few weeks ago, when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he was lifting the ban on women serving in combat.

While many women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan argue they've been in combat for years, they welcomed the news as yet another step in getting rid of gender-based barriers in the military. 

But that announcement didn't automatically open up all roles to women.  Some units, for example the Navy SEALS, can apply for an exemption and  have until 2016 to decide whether or not they want to include women.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Private Hugh Washington Mills was buried in Tampa’s Woodlawn Cemetery in the fall of 1919. But his grave went unmarked for almost a century.

Sandy Benitez, his great, great-granddaughter, discovered his grave site.  

Benitez’s genealogical search actually started when she tried to find where her mother’s grandfather, John Morgan Mills, was buried.

“They (the family) were never sure where he was buried,” Benitez said. “They used to go look for him all the time on the weekends and couldn’t find out.”

Off the Base: A Chat with an Amazing Military Wife'

Feb 8, 2013
Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Valentine's Day is just days away, but what about when your sweetheart is thousands of miles away?  The ultimate test of a long-distance romance is having a military spouse. 

I chatted with a military couple married more than a decade to learn their secrets to a lasting relationship. It wasn’t happenstance how I found Air Force Master Sgt. Erik Johanson and his wife, Jennifer.

Erik sent me an email a few weeks back with the subject line: Amazing Military Wife.

It was an early Valentines’ Day surprise for Jennifer.

The White House said today that it would move forward with the nomination of Gen. John Allen to become NATO commander.

Allen's nomination was put on hold after he became ensnared in the extramarital affair scandal that led to the resignation of CIA Chief David Petraeus. As we reported, the Pentagon's Inspector General exonerated Allen of any wrong doing yesterday.

NPR's Tom Bowman filed this report for our Newscast unit:

Department of Defense

The top commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, has been cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with sending emails to  Tampa socialite Jill Kelley.

Allen was investigated by the Department of Defense Inspector General for sending a reportedly large number of emails to Kelley who was a “friend" of MacDill Air Force Base where Allen had served at U.S. Central Command.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Everyone from Florida’s governor and VA secretary to state  lawmakers likes to call Florida the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.

Some veterans are saying, "Okay, prove it."

Student veterans are challenging lawmakers and the governor to pass legislation that would give them a break on college tuition. Almost a dozen states give military veterans in-state tuition waivers even if they’ve just moved there.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Roughly 2 million veterans and their family members are eligible for tuition, books and living expenses under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

And like every budget line in Washington, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told the annual gathering of Student Veterans of America that  their education benefits need to show a “return on investment”  or risk being cut.

This is the fourth time Shinseki has addressed the SVA national conference and each time he’s carried the same message.

US Air

Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base lost its bid to become home to some of the new KC-46 tankers, according to a release from Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

In fact, the new tankers did not go to any air base east of Kansas.

Instead, the 179 new planes will be assigned to bases in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Kansas and Washington state.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told Castor during a phone call that the KC-135 tankers will remain an Air Force priority for decades.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Florida women veterans have a new voice in Washington D.C. It’s Larri Gerson, a veteran claims examiner with the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gerson is a new appointee to the federal, VA Committee on Women Veterans which advises VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

She believes her frontline status - as a claims examiner and as a former women veteran coordinator for Florida – earned her appointment to the federal committee.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The region is home to MacDill Air Force Base, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations as well as two of the busiest VA Medical facilities, James A. Haley in Tampa and Bay Pines in Pinellas County, which means there are several ongoing stories to monitor this new year.

The Off the Base news series is a compilation of stories and interviews for, about and sometimes by Florida's veterans and military families. In addition to radio features, there's a blog with practical as well as whimsical information and numerous guest entries from military family members and veterans at

The following stories broadcast during 2012 are entries into the PRNDI News Series category the entry is a total of about 26 minutes with five selected pieces:

The Off the Base news series is a compilation of stories for, about and sometimes by Florida's veterans and military families. In addition to radio features, there's a blog with practical as well as whimsical information and numerous guest entries.

The following stories broadcast during 2012 are entries into the Florida AP Broadcast News Series category allowing up to five stories and at least one complete story.

The Off the Base news series is a compilation of stories for, about and sometimes by Florida's veterans and military families. In addition to radio features, there's a blog with practical as well as whimsical information and numerous guest entries.

The following stories broadcast during 2012 are entries into the RTNDA News Series category of up to 30 minutes audio.

1- A former Navy Corpsman, now a Reservist and college student, talks about his five years assisting in surgeries at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. (partial) Run time 1:47

Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride law firm

Bill McBride volunteered for the Marine Corps and Vietnam in 1968 at the height of the war, an act that defined his character and his life.

Tampa attorney McBride died Saturday while spending the holidays in North Carolina. He was memorialized by family, friends and colleagues at a Tampa service today.

McBride was a loving father and husband and will be remembered for the strides he made as a former managing partner of Holland & Knight and more recently as senior partner of the law firm of Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride.

What It Was Like To Serve With Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf

Dec 28, 2012
Mat Szwajkos / Getty Images Sport

Keith Lassiter served 13 years with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, first in Operation Desert Storm and then later at U.S. Central Command in Tampa.

Lassiter was in Tampa this week and met with Schwarzkopf. He shared some memories of serving with Schwarzkopf with WUSF's John O'Connor.

Lassiter says Schwarzkopf hated his famous nickname, Stormin' Norman, and shied away from the notoriety he earned during the first Gulf War.

Operation Desert Storm Leader Schwarzkopf Dead At 78

Dec 27, 2012
Mat Szwajkos / Getty Images Sport

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded U.S.-led forces furing the first Gulf War, has died the Associated Press is reporting.

Schwarzkopf, 78, lived in Tampa.

Schwarzkopf's last assignment was as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force base.

From ABC News:

Nicknamed "Stormin Norman" and remembered for his swift victory in Desert Storm, retired Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf died today in Tampa.