veterans

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A Kansas City nonprofit that helps connect homeless veterans with housing and jobs held a “stand down” Friday outside the World War I Museum and Memorial.

“We have an extraordinarily high homeless population,” says Art Fillmore, founder and co-chairman of Heart of America Stand Down. “A couple of years ago, it was up to around 1,700 homeless veterans.”

Fillmore says while city and county leaders have been proactive in addressing homelessness, that number is mostly going down as Vietnam veterans die.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

In Kansas City, hundreds of military veterans live without a house, apartment or even a permanent shelter to call home. Many have mental scars that make living in normal society difficult.

But three entrepreneurial veterans are trying to build a solution on a sloping field of grass and trees just east of 89th and Troost in Kansas City.

“We’re looking at four wonderful acres,” says Kevin Jamison, squinting into the sun. “Because it’s not the land, it’s what’s going to be done with the land.”

Courtesy Logan Black

Logan Black is an Iraq War veteran and an actor. Last year he moved Kansas City Fringe Festival audiences with Bond: A Soldier and His Dog, a one-act play he wrote about his relationship with a specialized search dog named Diego.

With another run for the show this month, however, Black has faced a tough reality, with implications for the play’s future: Diego hasn't been well.

Black was Diego's handler. Together, they cleared roads of roadside bombs and searched homes and discovered other stockpiles of ordnance.

Wikipedia -- Creative Commons

Kansas’ first Veterans Treatment Court went into session in the Johnson County Courthouse on January 13, making the state the 41st in the nation to start such a program. 

The court provides veteran offenders a diversion track through the Johnson County District Attorney’s office and a probation track offered through Johnson County District Court Services. They also link veterans with programs, benefits and services for which they are eligible.

A look at the Veterans Treatment Court programs in both Jackson County, Missouri and Johnson County, Kansas. 

Guests:

Eighteen months ago, the first phase of St. Michael's Veterans Center was just opening on Chelsea Street in Kansas City, Missouri. Now the center is expanding and inching closer to its goal of zero homeless veterans in Kansas City.

Guests:

  • Art Fillmore is an attorney with AEGIS Professional Services and a member of the board of St. Michael's Veterans Center.
  • Eric Verzola is the executive director of St. Michael’s Veterans Center.

A majority of American veterans, both able-bodied and wounded, say they want to continue to serve after fighting overseas. TIME Magazine’s Joe Klein details the story behind two soldiers who show fellow veterans how to use their war skills to rebuild communities here and abroad in his new book, Charlie Mike.

We explore how veterans are using art to reconnect with civilian life, and we'll also investigate how we thank veterans for their service.

Guests:

It's easy to see the terrible physical injuries that war can inflict. On this edition of Up To Date, author and former Marine Karl Marlantes talks about recovering from the invisible wounds of war. He recalls his service in Vietnam, speaks of regrets and talks about how combat can hurt one's moral core.

Istolethetv / Flickr--CC

It’s hard for an active-duty or former military service member to make it through Veterans Day without hearing this: “Thank you for your service.”

From seemingly well-intentioned passersby to a deluge of businesses, the November refrain isn’t always a welcome one, however.  

“Where is that coming from?” Herb Comstock, a 67-year-old U.S. Army veteran in Overland Park, Kansas, tells us. “Is it like, ‘Thanks for holding the door?’ Or is it heart felt?”

The Telling Project takes the stories of local veterans and veteran family members and turns them into scripts. Those same vets and family members then rehearse those scripts and present them in their community. Two participating area veterans and the founder of The Telling Project talk with Steve Kraske about the Kansas City version.

Guests:

Lou Eisenbrandt / Courtesy Photo

When 21 year-old Louise Eisenbrandt signed up for the U.S. Army in May 1967, she had no idea what she had gotten herself into.

Eisenbrandt, who now lives in Kansas City, went from nursing school in Alton, Illinois, to South Vietnam in the middle of one of the most dangerous wars in U.S. history — for adventure's sake.

“I saw the Army as my way of seeing the world. I got more than I bargained for,” Eisenbrandt told host Steve Kraske on Up To Date.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

A health care company that serves veterans and their families is adding 500 jobs in Kansas City.

“Our privilege as a corporation is to do one thing,” said David McIntyre, president and CEO of TriWest, “and that is to be there for the federal government to assist them in serving those who serve.”

McIntyre says TriWest picked Kansas City because of Missouri’s “Show-Me Heroes” program, an initiative to get business to hire veterans.

Veterans' homes across Missouri are about to get some much-needed upgrades.

Gov. Jay Nixon traveled to the veterans' home at St. James Friday where he told residents, staff and their families that their facility will soon be getting a $6.9 million upgrade.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Joe Williams enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after the post 9/11 invasion of Iraq and served for seven years. He survived rocket and mortar attacks. A fast learner and natural leader, he rose through the ranks and was about to start officer candidate school when something went terribly wrong.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

It shouldn't take a lawyer to help veterans navigate a complex benefit system, but it often does.

That was the message U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, delivered Thursday at the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association's "Veterans Come First" seminar, where she encouraged local attorneys to take on pro bono work around veterans issues.

McCaskill, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says veterans are entitled to the benefits they were promised when they agreed to serve.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The U.S. Senate has approved bi-partisan legislation to clarify the circumstances under which veterans are allowed to get medical care from their hometown providers at the VA’s expense.

Access to local, non-VA health care is part of the Choice Act, which became law last year. It’s meant as a way to assist veterans who live far from VA facilities or can’t get an appointment within 30 days.

A Marine Corps veteran in Wichita volunteers his time to play what many call the hardest 24 notes a musician will ever play...taps. Few melodies are as easily recognized or emotional as the tune, which is standard at military funerals.

Today, there are so few buglers available that the military services can not always provide one. KMUW's Abigail Wilson presents this sound portrait with Tim Emerson who is a member of Bugles Across America.

 

"I graduated from high school in 1987, started at Wichita State University immediately thereafter and left for a time to join the military. I served in the reserves in the Marine Corps and served on active duty for about a year and a half."  

"Meeting family members and knowing about who it is that you're honoring that day is pretty important.  I recognized the significance of that, so I decided that I would start keeping track.

After I do an honor guard, I will write their name and what their rank was; what branch of the service it was that they served in. If I know their date of birth, anything about their service, I'll write that down as well." 

"Patrick Featherby was a young man who I grew up with who died relatively recently and I had heard about his death on social media right around the same time that Bugles Across America sent me the request to play taps at his funeral."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran has what amounts to a running feud going with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He says the agency is dragging its feet implementing a new law called the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 that’s designed to help veterans in rural areas get the care they need.

But Robert McDonald, the new VA secretary, says Moran’s claims are baseless.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Top officials of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs say they are directly monitoring a staffing shortage that has left a Topeka facility unable to provide emergency care for more than a year.

Speaking at a health journalism conference last week in Santa Clara, Calif., VA Secretary Robert McDonald outlined the host of challenges he faces in reforming the embattled medical system.

File photo

Millions of veterans nationwide now have a card that’s supposed to improve their access to health care. But a Kansas senator and some other members of Congress doubt the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is really serious about the new Veterans Choice Program.

The program is meant to let veterans get care from private providers if they live at least 40 miles from a VA health care facility or if they face a wait of more than 30 days for an appointment.

John Wendle / for Harvest Public Media

Sara Creech has grown dependent on farming. She started out planting an orchard of fruit trees - apples, peaches, cherries and pears. She added berry bushes and rows of vegetables.

And then she bought her first chickens.

“A lot of people call chickens the gateway animal,” she said. “Like once you have a chicken on the farm, then you end up getting sheep on the farm, and then you end up getting horses, and cows, and then it just explodes from there.”

Two Kansas soldiers treated for post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan say a bill signed this week by President Barack Obama is a good start in preventing veterans’ suicides.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act, signed into law Thursday, is named for a Texas Marine Corps veteran who took his life after returning from Afghanistan with PTSD.

Suzanne Opton / The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

In the photograph, a young soldier with a downy blond buzz-cut lies perfectly still, face down on the ground. On stage, an ancient Greek warrior goes through the four stages of events that lead to post-traumatic stress.

The arts community is asking big questions about the life of the soldier. What role does art play in public discourse around combat?

Guests: 

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

This is the third installment of a three-part series on veterans’ health. The first part, which you can find here, deals with the military medical system. The second part, which you can find here, deals with mental health.

Four months ago, U.S. Army veteran Brandon Garrison played in an all-day softball tournament, a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

This is the second installment of a three-part series on veterans’ health. The first part, which you can find here, deals with the military medical system. The third part, which you can find here, deals with environmental exposures.

Esther Klay

This is the first installment of a three-part series on veterans’ health. The second part, which you can find here, deals with mental health. The third part, which you can find here, deals with environmental exposures.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran from Kansas City, Mo., who became a symbol of the anti-war movement, died peacefully in his sleep early Monday morning. He was 34.

Young joined the Army right after 9/11, wanting to take revenge on the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was shipped instead to Iraq, and within a week of landing there, he was shot in the spine and paralyzed below the chest. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill offered her condolences to an Iraq war veteran who died this week while speaking at a Veterans Day event at the National World War I Museum Tuesday morning.

Tomas Young, 34, who was paralyzed after being shot by a sniper in 2004, died from health complications Monday. He was an anti-war activist and  former Kansas City resident.

"He, along with many others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, are certainly deserving of our affection and  respect and deference on this day and every other day of the year," McCaskill says.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Richard Gibson, 33, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps just after high school and was stationed in Iraq. When his service ended in 2003, and he returned to Kansas City, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

With a love for singing and performance, Gibson turned to opera. For the past eight years, he's been a member of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus. He's also taking on a new role, as conductor of a Veteran's Chorus

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