Off The Base

Off The Base
2:40 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

July Opens With Two Veterans Events

Credit 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.

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Off The Base
8:51 am
Fri June 26, 2015

Help Promised To WWII Mustard Gas Vet

John and Joan Tedesco stand before a wall of World War II memorabilia including John's Navy photograph and military ribbons and medals.
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.

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Off The Base
7:00 am
Wed June 24, 2015

Bay Area WWII Vet Says VA Denied His Mustard Gas Claim

WWII veteran John Tedesco holds up a 1991 newspaper story when he and three other Navy buddies filed a VA claim because they were exposed to mustard gas during basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in 1944.
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.

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Off The Base
11:16 am
Tue June 23, 2015

The VA's Broken Promise To Thousands Of Vets Exposed To Mustard Gas

Three test subjects enter a gas chamber, which will fill with mustard gas, as part of the military's secret chemical warfare testing in March 1945.
Courtesy of Edgewood Arsenal

Originally published on Thu June 25, 2015 5:06 pm

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.

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Off The Base
11:29 am
Mon June 22, 2015

Secret World War II Chemical Experiments Tested Troops By Race

Rollins Edwards as a young soldier in 1945 at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
Courtesy of Rollins Edwards

Originally published on Mon June 22, 2015 10:00 am

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.

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Off The Base
2:14 pm
Fri June 19, 2015

Off the Base: 7 Tips To Easier Military Moves

Credit 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.

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Off The Base
10:19 am
Fri June 12, 2015

A Tale of Two Guide Dogs

An unidentified admirer pets Brittani who is retiring after 8 years of serving as a guide dog for wounded Marine Michael Jernigan.
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.

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Off The Base
9:01 am
Fri June 5, 2015

Brush Of Honor Paints Portrait of Fallen Pilot

Retired Major Gen. Robert Steel and his wife, Dee, with the portrait of their son, USAF Capt. James Steel, who was died when his F-16 crashed two years ago in Afghanistan.
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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Off The Base
5:51 am
Thu June 4, 2015

Fallen Tampa Pilot In 'Brush of Honor'

Air Force Capt. James Steel, 29, was killed when his F-16 crashed near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in 2013.
Credit U.S. Air Force

A Tampa F-16 pilot -- killed in a crash April 3, 2013 while deployed in Afghanistan -- is the focus of a TV series called Brush of Honor which airs tonight at 9 on the INSP Network.

The episode features Air Force Captain James Steel who was born in Tampa while his father, retired Major  Gen. Robert Steel,  flew F-16s at MacDill Air Force Base.

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Off The Base
12:36 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Former Ranger Finishes 405-Mile Run

Alex Estrella reached his final goal - the end of US 1 - on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. He started his trek May 21 around 11 a.m. from the main gate at MacDill Air Force Base.
Credit Monica Kim / Facebook

Alex Estrella, a former Army Ranger and Gulf War veteran, achieved his goal running 405 miles from the main gate at MacDill Air Force Base to Key West.

He optimistically hoped to complete the personal challenge in eight days. However, it took more than 12 days to reach the 0-mile marker on U.S. 1 which happened Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

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Off The Base
5:04 pm
Mon June 1, 2015

Former Ranger About to Finish 'Run for Jamie'

Under cloudy skies, Alex Estrella leans against the 30-mile marker on US 1 in the Florida Keys on his way to the 0 mile marker and finish of the "Run for Jamie."
Credit Erin Thompson / Facebook

Around 10:30 Monday morning, Gulf War veteran and former Army Ranger Alex Estrella, was 30 miles away from his quest that started May 21, 2015.

He created the "Run for Jamie" from Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base to Key West to honor Air Force Reserve Captain Jamie Brunette, who committed suicide in February 2015, and to raise awareness for suicide prevention and PTSD.

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Off The Base
11:54 am
Fri May 29, 2015

Airman's Suicide Spurs 405-Mile Run

At a ceremony kicking off his run from Tampa to Key West, Gulf War veteran Alex Estrella holds onto the photo of Afghanistan War veteran Jamie Brunette who commited suicide in February.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

Air Force Reserve Captain Jamie Brunette is described by friends as a vivacious athlete with a huge smile who loved people and loved to run. 

Malia Spranger, an Air Force Reserve colonel, served with Brunette, was her friend and business partner. They were going to open a fitness center together in March.

But Brunette, an Afghanistan War veteran, took her own life February 9, 2015.

“She was (like) a daughter to my husband and I,” Spranger said. “She is obviously terribly missed by so many people out there.”

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Off The Base
9:23 am
Tue May 26, 2015

New Orlando VA Hospital Ready for Debut

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 8:56 am

The head of the Veterans Administration is in Orlando today to dedicate the new VA hospital in Lake Nona. VA Secretary Bob McDonald will be the keynote speaker at an event, which will include elected officials.

The $620 million dollar facility broke ground seven years ago, and has been plagued with delays. The clinic began seeing patients in February, and the hospital will continue opening in phases through the rest of 2015.

Navy veteran Tom Pokorski said the new facility is an improvement over the VA clinic at Lake Baldwin, which is old and over-crowded.

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Off The Base
8:17 am
Mon May 25, 2015

2015 Memorial Day Ceremonies in Florida

Credit The Patterson Foundation

You can locate a VA National Cemetery nearest you that is holding a 2015 Memorial Day Ceremony HERE.

MONDAY - MAY 25, 2015

Barrancas National Cemetery
Naval Air Station
1 Cemetery Road
Pensacola, FL 32508
(850) 453-4108 or 453-4846
Ceremony: May 25 at 9:00 a.m.

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Off The Base
7:46 am
Fri May 22, 2015

A Fallen Member of an All-Female Team

1st Lt. Ashley White was a member of the all-female Army Cultural Support Team. She was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2011 while supporting a Ranger night mission.
Credit Ashley White Family / Memorial Page

Among those who will be remembered this Memorial Day is 1st Lt. Ashley White, a member of an all-female, all-Army Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.

White is buried behind her family’s church in Ohio. It’s the same church where she was baptized and where she married Capt. Jason Stumpf six months before she was killed.

The family had the option of burying Ashley at Arlington National Cemetery,

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