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.  

Obama: Progress Made On Disability Claims Backlog

Aug 10, 2013

President Barack Obama assured disabled veterans Saturday that his administration is making progress on reducing a backlog of disability claims and said the number of requests for assistance has fallen by nearly one-fifth since peaking at more than 600,000 just a few months ago.

In an address at the Disabled American Veterans' convention in Orlando, Obama also announced a national plan to guide mental health research, as well as commitments from 250 community colleges and universities to help veterans earn college degrees or get the credentials they need to find jobs.

Biking USA

She cycled on average 60 to 70 miles a day for two months. Battled dogs, heat, rain storms, ticks, a few crashes and a gas leak in her support vehicle.

That’s how Air Force veteran and University of South Florida doctoral student Kiersten Downs spent her summer.

Her cross-country trek ended Monday when she dipped her front cycle tire in reflecting pond at the Washington D.C. mall and then rode across a finish line established at the National Veterans Center.


On August 7, 1782, Gen. George Washington established the Purple Heart medal for all wounded or killed in action according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Here's a pair of videos, courtesy of University of South Florida Communications & Marketing Department, taken in Washington, D.C. Monday, shortly after Kiersten Downs, Air Force veteran and former president of the USF Student Veterans Association, completed a 3,800 mile bike ride cross-country to raise funds and awareness for student veterans.

Biking USA

Congratulations to Kiersten Downs, former president of the University of South Florida Student Veterans Association. The Air Force veteran achieved her goals.

Monday around 4 p.m. she completed her 3,800 mile trek across the USA. She cycled with two goals: to raise awareness for student veterans and raise $50,000 for their non-profit organization, Student Veterans of America. She accomplished both.

Sgt. Fredrick Coleman, USMC / U.S. Central Command Communication Integration

How do parents of adult children deal with the stress and uncertainty when their child volunteers to go off to war?

Jean Cicero is married to a police officer, now retired. She said it was no surprise that her son, Rick,  joined the Army and served in the first Gulf War or that he became a police officer when he returned home.

“It was kind of hard to decide which was more difficult, which made me crazier,” Jean said. “I would talk to him and he’d go ‘Mom, you’ve got to be brave because if you’re brave then I’m brave.’”

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The Canadian Armed Forces honored a retired U.S. Army master sergeant now living in Weeki Wachee for saving the life of a Canadian soldier July 31, 2010 in Afghanistan.

Surrounded by family, friends and some staff from James A. Haley VA Hospital who helped him recovery from a severe injury, Rick Cicero received the Canadian Commendation Medal for his bravery while serving as a military contractor and handler of bomb detection dogs with the Canadian Task Force.

Iowa VA

More mental health programs are needed for male veterans who are living with Military Sexual Trauma (MST) according to a top psychologist and researcher from Bay Pines VA Health Care System.

Dr. Carol O’Brien, chief of the Bay Pines VA Post Traumatic Stress Disorder programs, testified Friday before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Health subcommittee. The hearing was titled: Safety for Survivors: Care and Treatment for Military Sexual Trauma.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

After six days of intense and sometimes grueling competition – the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games came to a close Thursday night in Tampa.

And like the decathlon in the Summer Olympics, the closing day feature what is considered the “to event” for wheelchair athletes at the games.

It’s the “Super G” – a slalom-like course of complex wooden ramps. Some tilt while others are covered with uneven blocks of wood or strips of carpet that can easily tip a wheelchair.

Dalia Colón / WUSF

During the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, participants have been showing off their athletic prowess at venues across Tampa Bay: Weight-lifting at Tampa Convention Center. Archery at Raymond James Stadium.

And now for something completely different: water skiing.

Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus has decided to take a huge pay cut. The former commander of the allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan will now make $1 to teach a course at City University of New York's honors college.

Wheelchair athletes are competitive - that's easy to see if you watch any of the events this week at the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa.

Sometimes the competition is not another athlete but instead oneself.

This video features an athlete and veteran named Tracie. She was the final participant in the hand-cycling race Sunday. All had finished before her. Yet she did not give up.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This week, the Tampa Bay region is hosting more than 600 elite athletes, their coaches and families.

Opening ceremonies for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games were held this weekend at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Outside, under an inflatable arch, the first event, a hand-cycling race for 5K and 10K, started and finished.

Tampa Museum of Art

It's a special day and a special offer for active-duty military, veterans and their families at the Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W Gasparilla Plaza
Tampa, FL.

The museum is offering  free admission to Military Appreciation Day for all military families with identification.

Some special events planned for the day:

Katy Hennig / USF

Ten years ago, Dwayne Scheuneman was competing on the wheelchair racing circuit when he went looking for some cross-training in the off season. The Navy veteran started wheelchair dancing and never returned to the track, until this year.

Having the 33rd annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games hosted in the Tampa Bay region was too delicious of an opportunity to pass up.

Scheuneman plans to compete in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races to be held at Jefferson High School track and he’ll play Quad Rugby, the wheelchair form of rugby.


It’s been just over a month since University of South Florida student veteran Kiersten Downs dipped her bicycle’s rear wheel into the Pacific Ocean – a tradition for cyclists attempting to cross the country.

Downs left San Francisco June 2 with the goal of riding into Washington D.C. August 5. She tells WUSF News she’s on track but still plans to increase her daily pace from 70 to 80 miles. Her goal is to raise awareness for Student Veterans of America and to raise $10,000 for the student run organization.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Whether they’re offering predatory car loans or trying to sell burial services at the VA National Cemeteries  – there are scammers who prey on active-duty military and veterans.

Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 1223 that gives service members an added layer of protection from fraud and scams in state law.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Over the next five years, more than one million men and women will leave the military and re-enter civilian life.  For some, that is not an easy transition.

But there’s a program to help. The national, Got Your 6 campaign partners Hollywood with veterans groups. Their focus is helping veterans reintegrate in their communities through jobs, education, health, housing, family and leadership.

Terri Thompson

Amateur athletes compete for the personal satisfaction of accomplishment. They don't do it for the money or for fame. It's purely for the love of the sport.

During the week of July 13th, Tampa will show some love to a group of amateur athletes who will arrive from around the nation for the 33rd Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games.


It happened in a big way at the end of World War II - soldiers headed home from the frontlines and into the classroom.

Again, the number of veterans on college campuses around the nation is expected to increase as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. 

Some 2,200 students are currently using their VA education benefits to attend the University of South Florida said Ray Mollison, president of the USF Student Veterans Association (SVA). Of those, 1,700 are active veteran students and 1,200 are on the Tampa campus.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

In just a few weeks, Tampa will host more than 500 veterans in town to compete in the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

And 3,000 volunteers are needed to help with setting up equipment at the venues, serving meals, monitoring buses and to cheer on the athletes as “Fans in the Stands.”

Among the handful of veterans’ bills considered by Florida lawmakers this year was legislation that would have granted in-state tuition rates to all veterans using the Post 9-11 GI Bill.

The lower, in-state tuition waiver was a top priority for Florida student veterans.

State Rep. Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena sponsored the House bill.

“The senate wouldn’t hear it,” Peters said. “I’m extremely disappointed about it. The veterans’ organizations are upset about it. The veterans’ school organizations are upset about it.”

Annie Pace video

There are apparently all sorts of traditions and tips when cycling coast to coast across the USA.

One tradition is to dip your rear wheel in the ocean at your starting point and your front tire in the other ocean when you complete your cross-country journey.

So far, more than 700 veterans from Central Florida, many from World War II, have been treated to a day in Washington D.C. touring the memorials.

The 11th Honor Flight for West Central Florida returns tonight (Tuesday) at 8:30 at the St. Petersburg Clearwater Airport carrying some 80 WWII veterans.

The public is invited to come out and give the honorees a true "hero's welcome home." The celebration is planned at the baggage claim facility.

Kiersten Downs

Saturday, on the streets of San Francisco, University of South Florida doctoral student and Air Force veteran Kiersten Downs will begin a journey of 3,800 miles with a push of a single pedal.

The applied anthropology doctoral student is biking across America this summer to heighten awareness and to raise money for the organization Student Veterans of America.

Downs fell in love with cycling with the gift of her first two-wheeler, a little pink bike with streamers and training wheels.

Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember all  those who died while serving the United States of America in all wars.

An easy reference for all Memorial Day ceremonies at National Cemeteries throughout the United States is available HERE. This listing is in alphabetic order by state. Note that there is not a VA national cemetery in every state.

Tampa VA Doctor Wins Award for Type 2 Diabetes Research

May 24, 2013

The top medical researcher in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs works at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital.

Dr. Robert Farese won the 2012 William Middleton Award, which is given for outstanding biomedical research, for his investigation into the causes and possible cure of Type 2 diabetes.

Farese’s “breakthrough” work is important to veterans because 25 percent of all vets discharged from the VA have a diabetes diagnosis, usually Type 2 diabetes.

The hospitalized veterans at Tampa's James A. Haley VA, like many Americans on this Memorial Day, will be able to munch on burgers and hotdogs  at a good old-fashioned barbecue thanks to members of the Tampa law firm of Foley & Lardner LLP.

Upon learning that the Haley VA had to cancel the barbecue for about 150 veterans because their sponsor dropped out, the firm agreed to step up and cover the cost.

Memorial Day is a time to remember military members who lost their lives while serving their country.

It’s also a three-day weekend at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital that staff try to make special for the hospitalized veterans who also sacrificed for their country.

Yet, Memorial Day for Haley veterans had to be scaled back this year.

For want of $500, the 150 veterans at the Haley VA Hospital will not have a Memorial Day barbecue according to Cathy Williams, head of recreational therapy.

US House of Representatives

Army records from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are missing. And it appears to be more than just a misplaced file or two according to a report in ProPublica.

Cong. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a letter requesting a detailed accounting of how many files are missing: