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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.  

Largo High School senior Konner Ross was one of 15 students selected for “The Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute silent hero project.” Fifteen teams of high school students and their teachers from around the country researched a soldier, sailor or airman from their home state, who is buried in Normandy.

Military with PTSD

Traditional Fourth of July neighborhood celebrations --- like backyard rockets and cherry bombs -- can be problematic for those who fought to keep the country independent. The red-white-and-blue yard signs say it all: “Combat Veteran Lives Here, Please be courteous with fireworks.”

So-called "burn pits" were common at U.S. military outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legislation in the Senate would create a center to study the effects of breathing their smoke.

USAF

Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base will welcome a new commander next week. Air Force Col. April D. Vogel will take over July 8, 2016 as leader of the 6th Air Mobility Wing and assume command of the base, which is home to U.S. Central Command as well as U.S. Special Operations Command.

Wounded Warrior Project Gets New Leader After Troubles

Jun 17, 2016
Associated Press

The head of the military agency that searches for and identifies the remains of missing servicemen is resigning after just one year to take over a troubled nonprofit that cares for wounded troops.

Michael Linnington became the director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency last summer. He plans to leave next month to become the CEO of the Jacksonville-based Wounded Warrior Project.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Veterans who end up in jail or prison face a lot of problems when they get out – the lack of health care – finding employment - possible homelessness. To address those needs, the Department of Veterans Affairs has created several programs over the past decade.

The Health Care for Reentry Veterans program reaches out to veterans before they walk out of prison.

Updated 3:15 a.m. ET

David Gilkey, an NPR photojournalist who chronicled pain and beauty in war and conflict, was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday along with NPR's Afghan interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna.

Konner Ross / Courtesy of the Chalcraft Family

Army Private Leo Kenneth Chalcraft was a green-eyed, brown-haired teen from St. Petersburg, FL when he was killed in action in World War II.  

It happened just six days after his 19th birthday.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

 The nation will remember those killed while serving their country on Memorial Day in just over a week. But a local group called Veterans Counseling Veterans wants people to think about another kind of Memorial Day – one honoring those who served in uniform and died by suicide -- and is planning such as service this Sunday in Tampa at American Legion Post 5.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The toughest writing assignment 16-year-old Konner Ross will have this year is to write a eulogy for a young man she’s never met. But there’s a part of him the Largo High School junior never forget – his green eyes.

“They have his wallet from when they found it on the beach and on his identification card, it says (he has) green eyes and brown hair,” Ross said. “I didn't know he had green eyes until then. So, that seems like something small, but it was really cool to learn for some reason.”

Hillsborough County

It was supposed to be “The War To End All Wars.” But World War I  lasted more than four years: July 1914 to November 1918. More than 20 million soldiers died, either killed in action or by disease, and another 21 million were wounded.

Nearly 83,000 U.S. service members are still listed as missing in action from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and other conflicts. Many of their families still hope their remains will be identified and returned home.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Many endured starvation, torture, forced labor, and others died unable to return home. They are the former POWs who will be honored Saturday during the National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day.

U.S. Department of Defense / Pentagon Channel

The U.S. Secretary of Defense joined other top military leaders in Tampa Wednesday to mark the change of leadership at two major, joint military commands at MacDill Air Force Base.

Army Gen. Raymond "Tony" Thomas III is the new leader at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It may seem counterintuitive – but a military medic or corpsman, trained to save lives in combat and provide health care at home, does not qualify for most civilian medical jobs.

What’s worse – many veterans are at a competitive disadvantage when seeking admittance into nursing colleges.

MacDill AFB

You can expect crowd skies and streets this weekend in south Tampa as the MacDill Air Fest takes off. Admission is free and so is the parking, so, it's expected to draw 100,000 people.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

After a delay of 65 years and an Act of Congress, a Polk County soldier has finally been acknowledged for his heroism and sacrifice while a prisoner of war in Korea.

More than 100 friends and family crammed into the Medulla Community Center in Lakeland last week to watch as Edward “Grady” Halcomb was presented the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, an award for valor second only to the Medal of Honor.

As the number of veterans grows after 15 years of war, so do the number of veteran- and military-related charities. Today, there are an estimated 40,000 charities listed as serving vets and active duty military. But not all are legitimate.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Stories about veterans waiting years - decades even - to resolve a disability claim are not uncommon.

“I have a claim from 2003 that’s still not found yet. Nobody knows where it’s at,” said Gustavo Nunez, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. “I actually gave up on it a long time ago. I was so frustrated with the system.”

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

There are some things that veterans just don’t feel comfortable talking about, except possibly with another veteran.

That sacred bond, shared between veterans, can transcend time and generations - especially among those wounded, disabled or experienced in combat.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Tampa Bay veterans, 60 and older, and their spouses can get free legal help drafting a will and related documents like advanced medical directives.

The Stetson University College of Law has joined with volunteer attorneys from the area to offer the "Wills for Warriors" program for a fourth year.

Veterans must meet some income guidelines and can’t own property outside Florida because it makes the will too complicated.

Pentagon Channel

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made a stop at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base Thursday to plot strategy in the fight against ISIL, also known as the Islamic State.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The University of South Florida was listed as the most veteran friendly college in the nation by Money Magazine in 2015. But it’s not looking so “friendly” after refusing to re-admit a student veteran expelled because of a PTSD-related incident.

VA OIG

Brandishing a photograph of 1,600 boxes, stacked haphazardly in a storage room, Florida U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Pensacola opened a congressional hearing Tuesday into the backlog of veterans benefits claims.

At a warehouse near Dallas, a black Lab named Papi tugs on a rope to open a fridge and passes his trainer a plastic water bottle with his mouth.

Service dogs are often trained to help veterans with physical disabilities. Now, a growing number are being trained to meet the demand from vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Those dogs learn extra tricks — how to sweep a house for intruders, for example, so a veteran feels safe.

  •   Oct. 3, 2015 -  A “Stand Down” is when soldiers get a temporary break from combat for a shower, hot meal and peaceful night’s sleep. Pasco County held a Stand Down for veterans in our community who are fighting a different kind of battle with homelessness, substance abuse or mental health issues.
  • Nov.

Mel Evans / Associated Press

Paralyzed Army veteran Gene Laureano cried when he first walked again with robotic legs at a New York clinic as part of research sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs. But when the study ended, so did his ability to walk.

Pasco Support Services for Veteran Families

The Department of Veterans Affairs has the goal of ending veterans’ homelessness by January 1. That means any homeless veteran wanting housing will get it within a month or less.

The less-developed nature of Pasco County has created additional challenges when it comes to finding, counting and serving homeless veterans.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Five years ago, then Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, set a rather lofty goal --- to eliminate homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015.

“If we don’t put a very ambitious target on the table so that all of us can go to work on it, we won’t get anywhere near close to eliminating homelessness amongst veterans,” Shinseki said in a YouTube video released in May 2010.

Tampa’s Athena House was founded specifically to help homeless women veterans.

Obama Orders Inquiry Into CENTCOM Intelligence on ISIS

Nov 23, 2015

President Obama said he expected the Pentagon’s inspector general to investigate allegations that significant changes were made to reports from analysts at the United States Central Command, known as Centcom. In recent weeks, the Pentagon has expanded its investigation into the allegations and has seized a large trove of emails and documents as it examines the claims. The president said altering reports to make them more optimistic would be contrary to his wishes. “One of the things I insisted on the day I walked into the Oval Office was that I don’t want intelligence shaded by politics. I don’t want it shaded by a desire to tell a feel-good story,” he said.

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