Off The Base

Off the Base 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. There are stories of success and stress from military families living through deployment to World War II veterans seeking benefits. Check out our stories below or on the wordpress blog.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This week, the Tampa Bay region lost one of its more notable World War II veterans, retired Judge John Germany. He served as an Army tank commander at age 22 and helped liberate a concentration camp on the German-Austrian border before being sent to the Pacific theater.

Saint Leo University

This week, Saint Leo University in northeastern Pasco County welcomed more than new college students to campus. The 126-year-old Benedictine bastion of learning has a new president after 18 years.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. General Dr. William Lennox Jr. stepped up July 1, 2015 to become the ninth Saint Leo president.

Lennox has a distinguished resume. A 35 year military career, a PhD in literature from Princeton, he served as West Point Superintendent from 2001-2006, and as a senior vice president at a Fortune 500 aerospace company for more than six years.

Kiersten Downs

Women are the fastest growing group within the veteran population according to the Veterans Health Administration. Yet female vets may not identify themselves as a veteran or use their VA benefits.

Why women vets avoid mentioning their military service is one of several questions being explored by University of South Florida doctoral student Kiersten Downs.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. And, the Florida Department of State is commemorating the end of the war effort this week with a campaign called “Victory Florida.”

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Take the single word – sacrifice – and turn it into a three dimensional sculpture that represents veterans, military service members and first responders like police and firefighters.

It’s a tall order. But a challenge that more than 50 Polk County high school art students took on for this year’s Platform Art competition.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Studies show that only about half of the veterans who need mental health care seek treatment. And of those who get care – many drop-out before treatment is complete.

“So, we’re only reaching a third of people ultimately who need the treatment,” said retired Army Col. Dr. Charles Hoge. He works as a civilian at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he used to head up PTSD research.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

This week women veterans from throughout Florida will meet in Tampa for the 2nd Annual Women Veterans’ Conference. The goal is to sign them up for available benefits and resources.

This is the second year the state is reaching out to women veterans. The conference has expanded to two days, July 30-31, 2015, at the University of South Florida Tampa campus to accommodate demand.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

More than 70 years after being exposed to mustard gas at boot camp – a World War II veteran’s claim for VA benefits is being reconsidered.

It was not until 1991 that the Department of Defense declassified information on its mustard gas experiments using U.S. soldiers and sailors in training.

Veteran John Tedesco was exposed to mustard gas in January 1944 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station along with some of his buddies from his hometown of Erie, PA.

The Army is not happy about armed civilians who have been appearing at recruiting stations in several states in the wake of the Chattanooga shootings, ostensibly to help guard against such attacks.

SMSGT Rex Temple / USAF

Florida has 160,000 women veterans living in the state, yet some of those women do not consider themselves a veteran and many more have never applied for veterans’ benefits.

Matching women veterans with available benefits, resources and support is the goal of the 2nd Annual Women Veterans’ Conference July 30-31, 2015 at the University of South Florida

To understand the predicament of World War II veterans exposed to mustard gas, take a look at what happened to another set of American veterans who were exposed to a different toxic chemical.

Last month, NPR reported that some of those World War II vets are still fighting for disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs because the agency says they don't have enough proof to substantiate their claims.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Florida’s new law that expands access for service animals used by people with disabilities has received the most attention of the 13 veteran-related laws passed this year.

House Bill 71 not only expands the protected right to use a service dog to people with mental impairments but it also allows for a jail sentence if a public business denies access. And the new law also makes it a second degree misdemeanor for someone to pass off an untrained pet as a service animal.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The Vice-Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), is holding a Veterans’ Town Hall today, July 1, 2015 starting at 5:30 p.m.

The event is open to the public and will offer the audience a chance to participate.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This week - NPR revealed that 60,000 World War II veterans were exposed to mustard gas while training in the U.S. and some are currently living in the Tampa Bay region.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This week, NPR has revealed that the U.S. military conducted chemical weapons experiments on American soldiers and sailors during World War II.

It also found the Veterans Administration did little to help the thousands of veterans exposed to mustard gas.

In secret chemical weapons experiments conducted during World War II, the U.S. military exposed thousands of American troops to mustard gas.

When those experiments were formally declassified in the 1990s, the Department of Veterans Affairs made two promises: to locate about 4,000 men who were used in the most extreme tests, and to compensate those who had permanent injuries.

But the VA didn't uphold those promises, an NPR investigation has found.

As a young U.S. Army soldier during World War II, Rollins Edwards knew better than to refuse an assignment.

When officers led him and a dozen others into a wooden gas chamber and locked the door, he didn't complain. None of them did. Then, a mixture of mustard gas and a similar agent called lewisite was piped inside.

U.S. Department of Defense

We are smack dab in the middle of the peak moving season for military families. Traditionally, it’s May through August. And it happens every two to three years --- to most all military families.

It’s called “Permanent Change of Station” or PCS.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This is a story of two dogs serving their country’s veterans through the Southeastern Guide Dogs Paws for Patriots program.

There’s the “old girl” Brittani who has eased into retirement and the youngster Zak just graduated from “boot camp” still filled with puppy exuberance.

Brittani is a Goldador, a mix of Labrador and Golden Retriever, and was the longtime companion of Michael Jernigan of St. Petersburg, a Marine wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004.

Brush of Honor / INSP Network

A father provides the stories and a professional artist the paint to create a portrait of Air Force Capt. James Steel, an F-16 pilot who was born in Tampa and killed in Afghanistan on April 3, 2013.

James and his twin brother Jonathan loved playing on the Bay Area beaches as their father, Major General Robert Steel, flew F-16s with the 61st Fighter Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base.

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