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.  

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Throughout Florida and the nation, events and special showings are scheduled to recognize the sacrifice of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who are currently serving. Keep checking back for updates.

A map of Veterans Day observances throughout the United States is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs: Celebrate our Veterans this Veterans Day.  Participate in Veterans Day events across the country on Nov. 11, and join VA as we #ThankAVet on social media.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

As more and more active-duty military enter the civilian workforce, the number of career and job fairs for veterans has grown.

But very little so far has been offered to those veterans and military families who want to work for themselves.

Enter Pinellas SCORE and its Veterans Initiative. For a second year, the free business mentoring group has planned a Start-Up Business Resource Expo for veterans, active-duty members and their families.

University of South Florida

The 1,700 student veterans at the University of South Florida received an early Veterans Day present Friday from President Judy Genshaft.

She released a statement supporting the top issue of the USF Student Veterans Association – in-state tuition rates for all veterans.

"As we observe this Veterans Day, the University of South Florida thanks its student veterans for their service to our country and their ongoing contributions to our campuses and our community.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Veterans Day activities and remembrances are not confined to one day or one location. Communities throughout Florida and the nation are planning special events to recognize the sacrifice of those who have served in the US Armed Forces and those who are currently serving.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The air was filled with the aroma of cumin, sauteed onions and chilis. Dozens of tables covered with food and cookers lined the arena. Four men - the judges - sat on stage behind cloth-covered tables with water bottles at their ready.

Could there be any better setting or better way to come together than over a warm and spicy - but not too hot - bowl of chili?

That's the philosophy behind the 4th Annual Chili Cook-Off sponsored by the Student Veterans Association and Veterans Services Office at the University of South Florida.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Farrington / U.S. Navy photo

An estimated 2.3 million men and women have served during the nation’s last 12 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as they transition out of the military, the veterans will need care for immediate and long-term conditions like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

And many from health care professionals to retired military are concerned that the neglect of past veterans is not repeated with this new generation.

Stetson University

Legal experts from Stetson University College of Law, the St. Petersburg Bar Foundation and the Community Law Program are offering free assistance with simple wills and advanced directives to veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and their spouses in the Tampa Bay area.

To be eligible, veterans must have limited assets and low incomes and must make an appointment by Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. There will be no walk-ins allowed. To schedule an appointment, call 727-562-7800 x 7315 or 727-562-7393.

Update: FBI Identifies Veteran Shot at Bay Pines VA

Oct 27, 2013
Bay Pines VA

The FBI has released the name of the veteran killed by Bay Pines VA Police after he threatened them with a knife and said he was carrying a bomb.

"The victim involved in the shooting incident at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center on Friday, October 25, 2013, was identified as Vincent L. Young, 68, 9261 48th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida. The next of kin notification was completed today," is the FBI statement released Saturday afternoon by Dave Couvertier, Special Agent.

Bay Pines VA

Police officers with the Bay Pines VA Medical Center shot and killed a 68-year-old veteran who entered the emergency room Friday evening and said he had a bomb according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

He served more than half-century in public office including 43 years in Congress and chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee. So, it’s difficult to measure the scope of Congressman Bill Young contributions to the Bay Area, Florida and the nation.

Young was laid to rest Thursday at Bay Pines National Cemetery – a place he visited often especially for the Veterans Day ceremony.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Dwayne Scheuneman is a Navy veteran who was paralyzed after a diving accident.  But thanks to his drive and determination, he has become a successful wheelchair athlete – most recently winning four gold medals and three silver medals in track and field at the 2013 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Despite his athletic success, Scheuneman is more comfortable on the dance floor than the racetrack. But it opens him up to some friendly teasing from other veterans.

Wounded Warriors Project

The Florida-based Wounded Warriors Project (WWP) plans to open its coffers should the congressional stalemate continue and VA payments cannot  be made to veterans with disabilities and families of fallen service members.

The non-profit organization - which has assisted some 40,000 injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war - has committed $20 million to help its alumni according to the WWP website.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It took about a year of planning but only one day to create an outdoor garden for veterans in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital.

Dozens of veterans who are confined to bed or a wheelchair now have a new, outdoor hang-out thanks to the hard work of more than 50 volunteers from area Home Depot stores.

Dr. Kevin White says the outdoor spot near the nurses’ station and recreational therapy is ideal for his spinal cord injury veterans.

Honor Flights WCF

The big story in the Tampa Bay region Tuesday night isn’t just the Tampa Bay Rays' Game 4 against the Boston Red Sox.

It’s also the return of 80 World War II veterans who have spent the day touring some of the closed war memorials in Washington D.C.

Having a crowd at the airport for the WWII veterans “homecoming” is an important part of the trip sponsored by the West Central Florida Honor Flights.

National Parks Service

Tuesday morning, 80 World War II veterans from West Central Florida plan to exercise their “First Amendment rights.”

Their long-planned Honor Flight visit to the Washington D.C. war memorials was not canceled despite the government shutdown closing all monuments to the public.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

In a Department of Defense statement released Saturday, Secretary Chuck Hagel orders most of the 400,000 furloughed civilian workers to return to work beginning next week.

Hagel has directed military departments to review furloughed workers who contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members. The Pay our Military Act signed into law this week by President Obama, Hagels said, gives him the authority to bring back most of the furloughed civilians.

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is seeking businesses, banks and other organizations willing to extend assistance, freebies and discounts to furloughed defense workers.

So far, the chamber's Military Council has a list of a dozen financial institutions, museums, stores and restaurants with discounts or deals.

That includes the offer of a "signature loan" to furloughed federal workers by one credit union and a bank willing to give their furloughed clients one-month payment extensions.

HERO Corps

One retired Marine is using his battlefield training that helped him track terrorists in Afghanistan to find child predators back home.

Justin Gaertner joined the Marine Corps just days after graduating from J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey. In five years, he did three tours, two of them in Afghanistan.

He was serving as a combat engineer, sweeping for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), when he was severely wounded.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Here’s the breakdown of civilian defense workers furloughed from commands at MacDill Air Force Base: 95 percent of the civilians working at U.S. Special Operations Command; 33 percent of U.S. Central Command civilian workers; and about 30 percent of civilians with MacDill Air Force Base and the 6th Air Mobility Wing command.

In all, more than 1,500 civilian defense workers at MacDill are without a paycheck due to the federal government shutdown.

Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes

World War II veterans on an Honor Flight from Mississippi pushed their way through barricades to visit Washington, D.C. memorials Tuesday, the first day of the federal government shutdown, according to the Stars and Stripes.

Department of Veterans Affairs

There will be little or no impact at least on the largest part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the health care administration which runs VA clinics and hospitals.

The health care administration is on a two-year budget cycle, so it already has advanced appropriates for 2014 fiscal year according to Karen Collins, public affairs officer for James A. Haley Veterans Hospitals and Clinics.

"So, this means that a majority of our employees will continue to provide health care services to our veterans and active-duty service members here at James A. Haley," Collins said.

WUSF Public Media

On what was the most pleasant and least humid Saturday in the Tampa Bay area since April, some chose to spend a few hours inside.

The Friends of the St. Petersburg Library gathered in the auditorium of the main library to learn about the challenges and successes of the newest generation of veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Student Veterans Association President at USF, Ray Mollison, and SVA officer Patrick Schweikart served as their guides.

They said the SVA’s mission is to serve student veterans but also to reach out to the community.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The U.S. military is downsizing. The war in Iraq is over, and combat troops are due out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. That means more than 1 million service members will be entering the civilian workforce in the coming years.

That’s why two veterans are on a mission to help employers and the community in general separate fact from fiction when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Saint Leo University

Some military veterans report that employers are hesitant to hire them due to worries about post-traumatic stress.

So St. Leo University, 30 miles north of Tampa, is offering two free workshops to human resource professionals, mental health experts and the general public who want to learn more about “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Workplace.”

Rolla Al-abbasi / WUSF Public Media

Florida prides itself as a military-friendly state. So when MacDill Air Force Base officials voiced concern about the poor academics and safety at the middle school serving base children, community leaders acted.

Problems at Tampa's Monroe Middle School surfaced when Col. Tony Buntyn with the Air Force Reserves met with the base commander for MacDill. Buntyn was making a courtesy call as a member of the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee.

Imagine fighting in World War II, surviving four years as a Prisoner of War at camps in Japan and China only to have the U.S. Military lose your records.

Lost paperwork is not uncommon in the military especially if those records date back to World War II when everything was typed with carbon copies.

But that is the reason why 94-year-old McPherson Plecker never received the nine medals earned during his Navy service from 1940-1946.

The Navy Fireman First Class served on the destroyer, USS Schley (DD 103) and volunteered to go to Wake Island.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Florida is home to around 1.6 million military veterans. That's a point of pride among state officials who like to say Florida is the "most veteran-friendly state in the nation.”

Florida offers a number of tax breaks and services to veterans and now, a new honor. Governor Rick Scott has created a state medal to recognize their service.

Cyd Deathe / Tampa Area Marine Parents Association

The markers went up on Sunday - one for each of Florida's fallen from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

If the photo from the Marine Families Facebook page doesn't move you, maybe the words of the organization's president will. Here is Cyd Deathe's heartfelt posting:

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Students returned to campus this week at the University of South Florida and among them are an estimated 1,700 student veterans transitioning from active duty military to full-time college student.

At a welcome back barbecue on the Tampa campus, student veteran Victor Benoit collected a free shirt from the Student Veterans Association (SVA). He is a former Army military police soldier and a USF criminology major.

Girls Scouts of West Central Florida

A love of flying isn’t the only thing that links an 18-year-old Tampa Girl Scout and an Air Force Brigadier General who retired here.

Ben Nelson Jr.’s dad flew B-29s, B-17s and B-24s for the Army Air Corps in World War II. So it’s not surprising that he ended up in the pilot’s seat for the Air Force flying more than 200 combat missions in Vietnam.