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.

It builds on 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. 

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.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Despite the improving economy, finding a job or establishing a career remains a challenge and will be especially so for the million or more military service members expected to transition to civilian life in the next few years.

So, the University of South Florida Office of Veteran Services created the Veterans Employment Project, thanks to a grant from the JP Morgan & Chase Company, to prepare USF student veterans for the competitive civilian market.

VA.gov / Department of Veterans Affairs

Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., is inviting veterans and their families to voice their concerns about service and share their ideas on how to improve at a town hall today, Sept. 4, 2014, at 3:30 p.m.

It is the second such veterans' town hall held in as many days in the Tampa Bay region.

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

Here’s an opportunity for veterans and their family members who want to share ideas, compliments and complaints with the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System and St. Petersburg VA Regional Office.

It’s a town hall, scheduled Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 as part of the “improved communication” called for by new VA Secretary Robert McDonald.

The goal is to hear directly from veterans.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt / Department of Defense

The significance of the U.S. Special Operations Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base, can be measured by the fact that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel came to Tampa for the change of command ceremony.

“As a testament to the growing demand for special operators, SOCOM has grown by almost 8,000 people over the last three years,” Hagel told an invited audience of hundreds, most in military uniform. “And its growth will continue even as other parts of our military drawdown.”

Bay Pines VA

Veterans mental health experts at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System admit the VA "can't do everything alone."

So, the Bay Pines VA is holding a mental health summit today, looking to community partners to help provide veteran services both inside and outside the VA System. Local mental health agencies, private health care organizations and some hospitals are expected to attend the invitation-only event.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

UPDATE: Law enforcement provided an incomplete name for the Iraq veteran. His full name is Paul Badillo Rivera following the Hispanic tradition with two surnames. So, he is known as Paul Badillo.

When is a motorcycle more than just a ride? For Iraq veteran Paul Badillo, tinkering with the mechanics was a kind of therapy. It calmed him as much as a ride on the open road.

But his peace of mind was stolen from his apartment parking lot June 18, 2014.

Department of Veterans Affairs

What happens if you plan an event to honor women veterans and none of them come? That’s a real concern at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 97 in Sarasota. The organization is planning a free event August 30th for the area’s women veterans, but so far, they’re having a tough time generating interest.

U.S. House of Representatives

Reform within the VA medical system is one step closer as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a compromise VA reform bill Wednesday afternoon.

The joint House and Senate legislation provides $10 Billion so veterans on waiting lists can seek care from private doctors. It also authorizes leases for 27 new medical facilities, including one in New Port Richey, and budgets $5 Billion to hire more VA doctors and medical staff.

Photo by SSG Lorie Jewell, US Army. / Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

Some 17,000 service members nationwide and other consumers who were targeted by Rome Finance through unfair lending practices will not have to payoff their outstanding finance agreements according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and several state attorney generals.

Disabled Veterans Find their Freedom on Horseback

Jul 24, 2014
Tessa Wiseman / WUSF News

It has been said that in riding a horse, we borrow freedom. This is especially true for riders at an Odessa farm that uses gentle giants to foster physical and emotional growth.  For our series Off the Base, WUSF intern Tessa Wiseman took a trip to the farm to meet the team of humans and horses behind the healing.

Pages