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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.  

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

There’s a growing movement to help veterans transition from the battlefield to a more bucolic setting. Whether it’s a community agriculture initiative or a functioning farm – researchers are finding that raising food can offer veterans both a therapeutic and an economic value.

Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes / U.S. Air National Guard

You can expect to hear the increased roar of fighter jets across Tampa Bay’s skies for the next week as MacDill Air Force Base hosts the 180th Fighter Squadron.

Florida National Guard

Florida sent hundreds of National Guardsmen to assist with security in Washington D.C. for the Inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Approximately 340 soldiers and airmen have been sleeping on cots set up in a gymnasium and going through outdoor chow lines while on assignment to support the 58th Presidential Inauguration.

Bobbie O'Brien/WUSF

It was one week ago today when a man pulled a semi-automatic weapon from his luggage and killed five people and injured six others at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport.

The suspect, Esteban Santiago, 26, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq. And that has an impact that reaches far beyond the airport.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs is not a veteran himself. And as the VA Undersecretary of Health, Dr. David Shulkin is, so far, the only holdover from the Obama Administration.

That means Shulkin is known to veterans groups like the American Legion.

Traditionally, the military did little for departing troops except hand them discharge papers. But in recent years, it has enacted a mandatory program to help service members prepare for civilian jobs or go back to school.

Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital / va.gov

With the New Year comes a new women veterans’ coordinator for the state of Florida, Army veteran Darlene Scully, and an ambitious agenda for 2017.

In addition to her job reviewing veterans’ claims, Scully took on the position two months ago to be a voice for women vets who currently make up 10 percent of the 1.6 million veterans in Florida.

FDVA

By its own analysis, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calculates that Florida only has 20 percent of the VA-sponsored nursing home beds it needs to serve aging veterans. And it’s put the state on a “critical” list when it comes to building VA nursing homes.

A new study will test an unusual approach to treating symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder: injecting a local anesthetic into nerve tissue in the neck.

A Florida Air National Guard unit is in the running for a squadron of F-35 fighter jets.  Mark Oglesby from the Florida Department of Military Affairs says his agency is pushing to bring the planes to Jacksonville.

Stetson

For a fifth year, the Stetson University College of Law is offering free will services to older veterans and their spouses who need to draft a will or end-of-life directives.

Even if you’re a veteran of modest means, you should still have a will according to Stetson’s Elder Consumer Protection Fellow, Brandon Robinson.

NPS Photo

The “day that will live in infamy” – December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day – will be commemorated during an 11 a.m. service today at the Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park and Museum, 3602 U.S. Highway 301 N. in Tampa.

The 75th Anniversary Remembrance will honor U.S. military service members who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The event will include presentations by:

·        LeRoy Collins, III, son of Rear Adm. LeRoy Collins, Jr.

·        Gen. James Dozior, U.S. Army, Retired

President Barack Obama arrives in Tampa this afternoon to meet with the men and women who have been on the front-lines enforcing his policies in the fight against terrorism. And he plans to deliver his last major counter-terrorism speech.

U.S. Department of Defense - Defenseimagery.mil / U.S. Department of Defense

President-Elect Donald Trump has named a former leader of U.S. Central Command to become the next Secretary of Defense.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis led U.S. Central Command, which is based at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base before relinquishing command in March 2013.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

There’s a small but growing legal community in the U.S. that’s helping veterans with their benefits claims while working to improve the VA system. And their work continues even as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to name a new VA Secretary to “make the VA great again,” as promised during his campaign.

An Army review concludes that commanders did nothing wrong when they kicked out more than 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq or Afghanistan – even though all of those troops had been diagnosed with mental health problems or brain injuries.

The Army's report, ordered by Secretary Eric Fanning, seeks to reassure members of Congress that it's treating wounded soldiers fairly. But senators and military specialists say the report troubles them.

President Barack Obama will travel to Tampa next week to give his final speech about U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Former Army Sgt. Justin Lansford will be home – truly home - for the holidays this year. The Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran and his wife were handed the keys to a brand new, three bedroom bungalow in Tampa’s Seminole Heights thanks to the Gramatica Family Foundation.

U.S. Department of Defense - Defenseimagery.mil / U.S. Department of Defense

Retired U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis, who was part of the military leadership based at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, is being considered for a cabinet post in the new Trump Administration.

On March 22, 2013, Gen. Mattis handed over command of U.S. Central Command to Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III. In tribute to Mattis’ leadership, several high ranking officers including then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, attended the ceremony at MacDill AFB.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

You can't hear the story of combat veteran Leonard (Mr. Steve) Stevens without learning about the woman he calls his body guard. Their stories are now deeply connected.

As connected as the 95-year-old is to his blue ball cap that reads: "WWII Combat Glider Pilot."

Friday is Veterans Day - a time set aside for Americans to pay tribute to those who have served in uniform.

But if you’re unsure what to do or how to reach out, The Military Times suggests 8 Ways to Express Appreciation on Veterans Day and United We Serve, the National Service Blog, posted 10 Ways to Support and Honor Veterans.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling with another huge backlog and this time it is not veterans waiting for medical appointments.

Currently, a veteran who has had a disability claim denied must wait - on average four to five years - for an appeals hearing. VA Secretary Bob McDonald predicts that will grow to a 10-year backlog if laws aren’t changed.

Courtesy of the American Dental Association

A one-day, free dental clinic for military veterans will open its doors Friday to provide urgent care from root canals to tooth fillings. And there are no empty chairs.

That’s because the second annual “Stars, Stripes and Smiles” event, organized by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and the West Pasco Dental Association, has already filled its allotted 75 slots. But veterans’ names are still being taken for a waiting list.

New rules detail how military leaders must treat transgender service members. It's the latest step in the Pentagon's effort to integrate transgender people into the armed forces.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

A Tampa nonprofit that has partnered with a national organization to build homes for wounded veterans in Tampa is now going solo.

The Gramatica Family Foundation is building its fourth home for an injured soldier, using all-local donations.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It was six years ago when President Barack Obama vowed to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015. Nearly a year later, that hasn't happened.

But there have been successes. Two states, Virginia and Connecticut, and dozens of cities like Orlando are considered to be at “functional zero,” having ended chronic homelessness among veterans. That means homeless veterans have an immediate system of housing and services at their disposal.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The two main economic drivers in Florida are tourism and agriculture, but you can’t ignore the military. From military bases and defense contractors to 1.6 million veterans living in the state, the military contributes nearly 10 percent to the Florida economy.

That’s why protecting those military assets has become the mission of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation, business leaders and elected officials.

Federal Voting Assistance Program

In 2000, the Florida ballots of overseas service members were a key point of controversy in the Bush vs. Gore election.  Now, 16 years later, little has changed for most overseas troops, who still have to vote absentee mostly through international mail.

FDVA

As Florida’s health care industry is growing, so too is the need for registered nurses and other medical personnel. The competition for qualified health care professionals is high which has one state agency banking on a nurse’s patriotism to attract new hires.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The military is big business in Florida. Business leaders estimate the state's 20 military installations, along with the defense industry and veterans,  account for 10 percent of Florida's economy.

So, it's no surprise that protecting Florida’s bases from realignment or closure is a top priority for elected officials and businesses alike.

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