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

Recently retired Army Ranger and Medal of Honor recipient Master Sergeant Leroy Petry delivered the main address Tuesday at a ceremony honoring student veterans at the University of South Florida. Petry, like many of the student veterans in the audience,  is taking on a new mission, college, starting a business and spending more time with family.

You can hear his full speech to the USF audience of about 200 people here:

The Patterson Foundation

The WUSF Veterans Coming Home project is partnering with The Veterans Legacy Summit hosted by the Patterson Foundation. The multi-day summit offers a wealth of events from art walks and a free concert with the West Point Band to the keynote address by best-selling author Wes Moore.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Student veterans at the University of South Florida will celebrate Veterans’ Day a week early with a Veterans Expo and Ceremony on Tuesday followed by a Chili Cook-Off Wednesday at the Tampa campus.

A Medal of Honor recipient who did six tours in Afghanistan is the keynote speaker at the USF Veterans Day ceremony scheduled for Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. at the amphitheater outside the Marshall Center.

The USF Office of Veterans Services and Student Veterans Association will honor Army Ranger Master Sergeant (Ret.) Leroy Petry.

Steven Brooke / The Patterson Foundation

Problems with veterans’ health care and benefits have dominated recent headlines. But there is one section at the Department of Veterans Affairs that ranks first in customer satisfaction over both private-sector companies and other federal agencies.

That’s a point VA Secretary Bob McDonald was quick to point out when he visited Florida earlier this month. The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) is ranked first in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Veteran suicide is a real and present problem in the community. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that on average 22 veterans die by suicide every day.

That’s a straightforward statistic for a very complex problem.

Calling it a growing and troublesome trend, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor of Tampa organized a roundtable to discuss what is being done in the Tampa Bay area to prevent veteran suicide.

Aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker on a Refueling Mission

Oct 24, 2014
Lottie Watts / WUSF 89.7

When you're about to run out of gas in your car, you don't think too much about pulling into the closest station to fill up.  The process is a bit more complicated if you're a pilot flying an F-16 Thunderbird with the United States Air Force. That requires an airborne filling station. 

For our series Off The Base, we went on a refueling mission in a KC-135 Stratotanker out of Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base.

Office of Veterans Affairs / USF

Over the last five years the University of South Florida Office of Veterans Services has worked to raise its visibility among the estimated 1,400 student veterans on campus and provide them resources.

One way USF Veterans Services has gained a lot of notice is its annual Chili Cook-Off.

This year, the Office of Veterans Services 5th Annual Chili Cook-Off is scheduled 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5th at the Marshall Center Amphitheater on the Tampa Campus, 4202 E. Fowler Ave.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This weekend marks the 6th annual National Military Suicide Survivors Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors organized by TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. About 500 adults and 170 children will participate in workshops, art therapy and outdoor activities learning skills to cope with the suicide of a loved one who served in the military.

Tessa Wiseman / WUSF Public Media

The new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has temporarily assigned Kathleen Fogarty, the director of Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center, to help restore trust and transparency at one of the most troubled VA networks that oversees the Phoenix VA hospital.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Secret patient waiting lists, delayed medical care, retaliation against whistleblowers  are all reasons why trust in the VA hit an all-time low this spring especially on Capitol Hill.

The new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert “Bob” McDonald is trying to restore that trust. He’s started by visiting as many VA facilities as possible during his first 90 days in office.

McDonald toured several Florida VA facilities this week and he invited U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee of Veterans Affairs, to come along.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Looking for suggestions on how to improve service and shorten wait times throughout the VA system, the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs visited Florida this week to hear directly from veterans, VA employees, veteran service organizations and VA administrators.

Secretary Robert McDonald- who likes to be called Bob - said progress is being made on speeding up medical appointments and decreasing the wait for benefit claims. As an example, McDonald said the national backlog of disability claims has been reduced 57 percent from its peak in March 2013.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

The new Secretary of Veteran Affairs is in Florida today to hear from veterans and talk to VA employees about his initiative to restore trust in the VA and eliminate the backlog of claims and long waits for health care.

Robert McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, is spending his first 90 days in office visiting VA facilities nationwide to explain his reform plan dubbed Road to Veterans Day 2014.

Courtesy Mud Endeavor

Sometimes you’ve got to get down and dirty to raise money for your charity. And that’s exactly what Saint Leo University is doing.

To raise money for the veteran student emergency fund (now known as Military Education Excellence), the Saint Leo Veteran Student Services office is partnering with Mud Endeavor to sponsor the Mud Endeavor V Saturday, Oct. 4, at 29251 Wildlife Lane, Brooksville, FL.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It’s difficult to define today’s military veteran. But there is one thing they have in common - they don’t like being painted with the same broad brush.

“Just because I’m a veteran, particularly me because I’m a Marine, a combat Marine, don’t think you know my political affiliation, my beliefs, my values,” said Tedd “Gunny” Weiser, short for Gunnery Sergeant. “There is a label and we want to shed that, we want people to know that we are our own person.”

U.S. Central Command

The United States Central Command has released unclassified video of an air strike Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, on the Jeribe West Modular Refinery in Syria.

The Islamic State militants (ISIL) reportedly earn an estimated $2 million daily from several oil fields and refineries in the region.

The Associated Press reports:

Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Freedom Square, a continuing care community in Seminole, is a drop-off site for Cell Phones for Soldiers: a program that lets soldiers serving overseas connect with their families.

The Cell Phones for Soldiers program collects unused cell phones. Funds from recycled, unused cell phones and cash donations go towards mailing free calling cards to soldiers.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg returns each year to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to show the staff his progress. He was severely injured in 2009 and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center.

Remsburg was on his tenth deployment when he was injured by an IED in Afghanistan. His teammates found him face down in a water-filled canal with shrapnel in his brain.

He was in a coma when he arrived at the Haley.

More than 800 patients have come through the polytrauma system according to Haley Chief of Staff Dr. Edward Cutolo, but he remembers Remsburg.

Marine Sgt. Fredrick Coleman / CENTCOM

The pride of “wearing the uniform” was clear and present inside the MacDill Air Force Base sports center Wednesday where 1,200 service members from all branches crowded together to hear President Barack Obama.

Most were dressed in the everyday, camo uniform. They greeted the president with an enthusiasm that belied the rainy, gray skies outside.

President Obama talked directly to the men and women. He said he came to thank them for their sacrifice and for their commitment to the country.

CENTCOM / U.S. Department of Defense

President Barack Obama landed at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base shortly before 7  p.m. Tuesday, following a flight from Atlanta where he announced a major U.S. response to  the Ebola crisis in Africa.

The President was greeted by the Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin, the newly installed Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of MacDill and the 6th Air Mobility Wing Col. Daniel Tulley, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-D).

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elisebet Freeburg / Department of Defense

Evasive driving maneuvers like speeding and sudden lane changes are a must for troops driving in dangerous environments where there may be roadside bombs, like Afghanistan.

But the driving habits that can save a soldier’s life when deployed can cause an accident and maybe death when the soldier returns home.

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