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Off the Base

Hundreds of veterans - who served in the U.S. military as non-citizens - were later deported for committing civilian crimes. 

Non-citizens are eligible to serve in the U.S. military. But even as veterans, they can still be deported if they commit crimes after they leave the service.

Revelations that hundreds of Marines shared lewd photos of women come as military leaders fight an ongoing battle to change the culture of the Marines.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base put on an impressive show of skill and threw in a bit of fun for some 1200 school students who visited the base this month to check out military careers linked to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Never before in our nation’s history have we depended more on technology and the application of technology to win – not only in the air – but in space and in cyber space,” said MacDill Commander Col. April Vogel. “You know our mission is to fly, fight and win. So, we need to create people who can do that. And there are some amazing young minds here today which is why this is so special.”

The 43rd president appeared on national television, the Today Show, Monday to kick off his book tour and is followed that with an appearance at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base in the afternoon for a book signing.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

A growing number of veterans are looking to agriculture for their next career and entrepreneurial opportunity.

Megan McCollumn / IBM

It’s estimated the high tech industry will create more than 200,000 "new collar” jobs in the next three years. To fill those positions, IBM is tapping into a workforce that’s already well trained - veterans.

“We need to get people to hit the ground running and be productive,” said Tampa IBM executive Stuart Bean. “And you just can’t fill them unless you have people who are already disciplined, already trained, mature enough, (and) can hit the ground running.”

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

A ceremonial seed planting will be part of today's official opening of the Veterans' Garden, 918 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa,  across from Lowry Park Zoo.

The event is set for 10:30 a.m. and will include recognition of USAA, which provided  a grant to expand the sustainable garden for veterans.

Thousands of veterans have suffered combat injures that left them infertile. For the first time, the VA will pay for treatments to help them have children.

A Southern California project is transforming steel shipping containers into apartments for homeless veterans. They're inexpensive, durable, and surprisingly attractive.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

USF Communications and Marketing

Jeffrey Sargent enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from high school in 1999. He ended up serving 12 years, including two tours of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During that time, he received a Bronze Star, but also lost several members of his unit, including his platoon leader.

He was a decade into his military career, when during a promotion ceremony to Sgt. First Class, he suffered his first panic attack. It was the initial sign of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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.

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