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.

Partners in the project include WUSF, KPBS in San Diego and North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC.

The American Homefront project in Tampa builds on the success of 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.

American Homefront receives support from: The Bob Woodruff Foundation, dedicated to ensuring that post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families make a successful transition.  

WUSF Public Media

How to do you plan to observe Memorial Day - a day set aside to remember service members who have fallen in battle and others who are no longer living.

Kurt Rotar, director of the Florida National Cemetery at Bushnell and Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, suggested visiting your nearest national cemetery to pay tribute. There are planned ceremonies or you can just walk among the veterans buried there.

With Blackhawk helicopters hovering overhead, about two dozen Special Operations Forces provide plenty of pseudo gunfire as they stormed the pastel-colored waterfront at the Tampa Convention Center Wednesday afternoon.

It was a military exercise on display for the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

The military forces represented 12 coalition countries. The exercise: a mock rescue or "extraction" of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

When Veterans Affairs investigators visited the Veterans Benefits Administration's St. Petersburg regional office in March, they found a mess at an office with more than 21,000 pending claims considered backlogged.

The Tampa Tribune is reporting ( officials with the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found records stacked in piles that made it difficult to locate some files.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

There’s nothing quite like the freedom of the road and the adventure of discovering what’s around the next turn. That independence is what inspired two Air Force Academy buddies to plan a cross-country motorcycle ride next month.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The area’s newest tribute to military service members, veterans and first responders will be unveiled in Lakeland this evening. It’s a sculpture of steel and glass. Designed by a high school student and crafted by a local artisan.

The non-profit group, Platform Art, is leading the collaboration behind the sculpture, the first of three pieces that will become part of Lakeland’s Veterans Memorial Park over the next three years.

McGehee Family

Army Lt. William McGehee was thrilled to learn that a poem he wrote in high school inspired another student’s work of art honoring members of the military and first responders.

Currently on his second tour in Afghanistan, it’s difficult for him to get reliable access to the internet. However, he managed to record his poem to share with all involved with the Platform Art project. And he sent along the following words to be read at the unveiling of the “Honor Sculpture” tonight, May 9, 2014, at 6:30 at Kryger Park, 108 S. Massachusetts Ave., Lakeland.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Gov. Rick Scott, a Navy veteran and son of a veteran, convinced Congress to hold a field hearing to delve further into care being provided at Florida’s VA hospitals.

All this came after state regulators spent most of April conducting unannounced visits to Florida’s VA hospitals, and were denied access to their federal records.

The Army News Service

A bill that gives expanded voting access to military personnel serving overseas appears to be blocked in the Florida House of Representatives.

As Supervisor of Elections for Okaloosa County,  home to Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, Paul Lux advocated for the bill that expands military voting access.

“As we know, some deployed troops have trouble getting access to ballots,” Lux said.

He added an option that more and more deployed military personnel are using is the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB).

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Ten years ago this week, seven parents met for coffee in Tampa. They had two things in common: they all lived in the Tampa Bay area and they all had a child serving in the Marines.

That coffee was followed by a pot-luck dinner and before she knew it, Cyd Deathe had become co-founder of the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association, or T.A.M.P.A.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Have you ever taken a photograph and the camera flash turned the person’s eyes into red or white dots? That bane of amateur photographers is becoming a useful tool for physically impaired veterans.

Rick Archer, an assisted technology therapist at the James A. Haley VA Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center, has  a typical laptop computer in front of him. Attached to it is a black device, the size of a toothbrush case, called Eyegaze.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It’s not your father’s VA anymore as evidenced by just one look inside the Department of Veterans’ Affairs new Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center at James A. Haley VA Hospital at 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa.

There’s a putting green, a two-story climbing wall, and an aquatic center for recreational therapy. Each of the 56 new private rooms has large windows for natural light, lush wood paneling, wheelchair accessible bathrooms, a desk and a large-screen TV so veterans and active duty personnel have direct access to education programs and entertainment.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

State health care regulators showed up unannounced for a third time at a federal Veterans Administration Hospital in Florida and asked to view patient records.

That visit to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa Wednesday appears to be part of a tug-of-war between Gov. Rick Scott and federal VA hospitals.

Fort Hood Public Affairs Office via Reuters

The body of Mulberry High School graduate and Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, 39, one of three killed in the recent Fort Hood shooting rampage, is expected to arrive home to the bay area Friday, according to a member of the Florida Patriot Guard Riders.

The Lima Company Memorial

Opening today and staying for only three days is an art exhibit that has become an iconic symbol for the men and women who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The Lima Company Memorial: The Eyes of Freedom exhibit features life-size paintings depicting 23 Marines from the small Ohio Reserves unit L 3/25 who were killed in action in 2005 in Iraq.

Mike Strahle served with Lima Company and now shepherds the exhibit around the U.S. He said the exhibit has a broader reach than just his generation.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

A World War II veteran of Iwo Jima and recipient of the Medal of Honor is counting on hundreds of teenage boys at a Tampa public school to honor his dream.

Marine Corporal Hershel “Woody” Williams’ vision is to build a memorial in every state honoring Gold Star families, the spouses, parents, children and extended family members of military men and women who have been killed in combat.

Two of the victims of Wednesday's mass shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas apparently came from the Tampa Bay area.

Various news outlets are reporting that Sgt. Danny Ferguson is a graduate of Mulberry High School in Polk County. The other victim is Carlos Lazaney, whose family lives in Tampa.

WFLA-TV is reporting that Ferguson, 39, was originally from Mulberry and a 1993 graduate of Mulberry High School.

Bay Pines VA Hosting Stand Down for Homeless Vets

Apr 4, 2014
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

Homeless veterans can find a hot shower, free food and sign up for health benefits at the Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event on Saturday at the Bay Pines VA Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Aside from enrolling for health benefits, VA Public Affairs Officer and Army veteran Jason Dangel said the stand down will connect veterans to resources and programs for things like employment, food, housing, and legal services.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It took four hours, six flame-throwers and the lives of two fellow Marines before Cpl. Hershel "Woody" Williams knocked out seven Japanese pillboxes on Iwo Jima February 23, 1945.

It was his fourth day on the Pacific island.

Williams said six members of his original special weapons unit had been killed and he was the sole survivor.

With the stroke of a pen Monday, Gov. Rick Scott positioned Florida to attract more veterans - beyond the estimated 1.5 million already living here - to attend college, to work and to retire in the state.

The “Florida GI Bill,” crafted to resemble the post-WWII benefits, includes measures for veterans, active-duty families and military installations.

The Veterans Administration has been fending off reports that military veterans have died needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at veterans’ hospitals. Today, Florida Senator Bill Nelson came to Tampa - looking for answers.

Nelson got a couple of answers - but other bigger issues were still left hanging. Like whether it's true that least 19 veterans have died because of delays in simple medical screenings at various VA hospitals or clinics across the country.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

One in every five women and one in every 100 men have told the Veteran's Administration that they experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military.

Those numbers have both the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs working on solutions for treatment and the prevention of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

Student veterans using their GI education benefits between 2002 and 2010 graduated from colleges and universities at the rate of 51.7 percent according to researchers with the Million Records Project.

A KC-135 Flight Through the Eyes of a Military Wife

Mar 21, 2014
Jasmine Thomas / WUSF Public Media

The White House online

Far from the Vietnam jungles where Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris,72, served two tours, the Army veteran stood on a stage at the White House today as he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

President Barack Obama noted to the room packed with family members and military that the Port St. John, Florida resident was one of the first Green Berets.

The Army News Service

Melvin Morris served two tours of duty in Vietnam, but because of his race he didn't receive the Medal of Honor. Morris talks to NPR's Rachel Martin about the award he'll receive from President Obama.

You can listen to the interview, which aired March 16, 2014, on WUSF 89.7 FM.

Morris told Martin that he has no regrets.

"I am never angry about it. You know war is war and we do what we're told to do and we don't determine the outcome," Morris said.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

A powerful, photographic tribute to American soldiers and Marines from the Civil War to the Iraq War opens Tuesday at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.

From the opening panel of the American Soldier exhibit – you immediately see the difference. The photo of the Union soldier from Civil War is staged in a photographer’s studio. He poses with his rifle. The Iraq War soldier is in an urban warfare setting, his finger poised on the trigger of his AK-47.

Department of Veterans Affairs

It’s taken three attempts, but Florida student veterans will soon be granted in-state tuition waivers if the governor signs the newly passed legislation. All indications are that he will.

The Florida Legislature on Tuesday passed the “Florida GI Bill," CS/HB 7015, which among other things offers a tuition break to honorably discharged veterans regardless of when they moved to the state. It also includes college scholarships for National Guard members.

USF Psychological Services Center

Family therapy, couples therapy, individual therapy, even weight management groups are all services that have been available at the USF Psychological Services Center for decades. Now, the center’s director, who served 10 years in the U.S. Army, is reaching out to the veteran and military families offering help.

“We know that there are veterans, for whatever reason, are still hesitant about seeking services in the VA,” said Jack Darkes, director of the University of South Florida Psychological Services Center.

U.S. Navy

The 2014 Military Appreciation Banquet tonight will honor the Tampa Bay community’s military personnel. Awards will be presented to Officers of the Year, both commissioned and non-commissioned, for each branch of service, to civilians as well as recognizing the ROTC Cadet of the Year for the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The Tampa Bay area will soon become home to a new university. It is not another state university like Florida Polytechnic. Instead, the university has a highly-specialized curriculum with a global reach.

A hub campus for the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) is under construction near the U.S. Special Operations Command on MacDill Air Force Base.