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.

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.

President Barack Obama will travel to Tampa next week to give his final speech about U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

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."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Friday is Veterans Day - a time set aside for Americans to pay tribute to those who have served in uniform.

But if you’re unsure what to do or how to reach out, The Military Times suggests 8 Ways to Express Appreciation on Veterans Day and United We Serve, the National Service Blog, posted 10 Ways to Support and Honor Veterans.

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.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The two main economic drivers in Florida are tourism and agriculture, but you can’t ignore the military. From military bases and defense contractors to 1.6 million veterans living in the state, the military contributes nearly 10 percent to the Florida economy.

That’s why protecting those military assets has become the mission of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation, business leaders and elected officials.

Federal Voting Assistance Program

In 2000, the Florida ballots of overseas service members were a key point of controversy in the Bush vs. Gore election.  Now, 16 years later, little has changed for most overseas troops, who still have to vote absentee mostly through international mail.

FDVA

As Florida’s health care industry is growing, so too is the need for registered nurses and other medical personnel. The competition for qualified health care professionals is high which has one state agency banking on a nurse’s patriotism to attract new hires.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The military is big business in Florida. Business leaders estimate the state's 20 military installations, along with the defense industry and veterans,  account for 10 percent of Florida's economy.

So, it's no surprise that protecting Florida’s bases from realignment or closure is a top priority for elected officials and businesses alike.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

  Next month, it will have been 15 years since the United States went to war in Afghanistan and then later, into Iraq. It’s estimated 2.5 million men and women have served during that time and each has a story to tell.

Helping those service members and veterans shape and share their story is why Tampa brothers Matt and Mark Fetterman started the non-profit organization, The Homefront Foundation.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

At the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell today, Jasper G. Taylor, Jr. will be laid to rest.

Taylor was a World War II Army Air Corps radio operator who was captured by Imperial Japan in the Philippines in May 1942.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Veterans and their family members in the Tampa Bay region have an opportunity to help guide VA research at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

The Haley VA is looking for 10 volunteers to serve on a Veteran Engagement Council. The council will bring a veterans’ perspective and help shape VA research that studies things like the effectiveness of new technologies on veterans’ care.

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