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Army veteran Cody Bolkenstyn remembers when his vehicle exploded in Iraq. And for him, hearing the sound of fireworks on the Fourth of July can put him back into that moment.

“It’s hard to control my breath,” he said. “In that instant I feel like I just got blown up or shot and then I kind of come back to reality really quick.”

Donald and Laurie Draughon

After finding the Veterans Health Administration liable earlier this year for the suicide of an Iraq war veteran, a federal judge has awarded more than $480,000 to his father and two children.

In what was thought to be one of the few verdicts of its kind, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled in February that the negligence of the VA directly contributed to the death of Cpl. William Draughon of Kansas City.

The recent summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un included an agreement to return the remains of American soldiers still missing from the Korean War.

That has caught the interest of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita because one of the missing is Chaplain Emil Kapaun.

Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013 for his bravery in Korea and could become a saint of the Catholic Church. He died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp in 1951.

Kevin Cook

Sept. 3, 2009, was a date that was 14 years in the making for Air Force veteran Kevin Cook.

He first entered a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center for help treating his depression and alcohol and drug use in 1995.

“I would come into treatment, I would get all of this help and everything and then I would leave back out the door thinking that I can do this on my own,” Cook says. “And it never dawned on me that this is ... a lifetime change and this is something that you have to stay engaged in.”

Anne Kniggendorf

Rob Hill was pretty sure he had the makings of the fabled great American novel. But the retired Army lieutenant colonel isn’t much of a writer, so his idea for a story about who was buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers didn’t pan out.

He did have a creative outlet, though, one that led Hill to think he could tell the post-World War I story through song. A member of the Heartland Men’s Chorus, Hill took his idea to Artistic Director Dustin Cates.

Elana Gordon / KCUR 89-three

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said Wednesday afternoon that the VA has reached a 10-year, $10 billion contract with Cerner Corp. to update the VA’s electronic health record system.

The deal calls for the North Kansas City-based company to use the same platform as the one it’s implementing for the Department of Defense so that the two giant agencies’ record systems can “talk” to one another. Cerner secured the defense department contract, worth more than $4 billion, in 2015.

Mid-America Arts Alliance

Shortly before Nolen Bivens retired from 32 years of military service, he noticed something about the soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas, where he’d been serving as a Brigadier General over the Fourth Infantry Division.

H.C. Palmer

H.C. Palmer had graduated from medical school but hadn't yet finished his residency when the Army drafted him in the mid-1960s.

President Lyndon Johnson's administration took 1,500 men from medical training programs across the country and sent them to Vietnam as surgeons.

By August 1965, Palmer found himself in a war zone as part of the First Infantry Division. All these years later, he says he’ll never completely find his way out — nor will others who’ve been similarly exposed to the “many horrific things that happen in war,” he told me in a recent interview.

Elana Gordon / KCUR 89.3

The firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin means uncertainty for the VA’s pending $10 billion contract with Cerner Corp. to modernize the sprawling agency’s electronic health records system.

Health Data Management, an industry publication, reports that Shulkin’s ouster came as the VA was finalizing negotiations with Cerner.

Veterans Health

This story was updated at 1:47 p.m. to include the response of a spokesman for the VA region in question.  

Almost 1,000 veterans in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois were denied care at non-VA facilities because their wait times were incorrectly reported, an audit released last week concludes. 

Donald and Laurie Draughon

After a seven-month deployment in 2004 in Iraq as a squad leader and gunner, Cpl. William P. Draughon received a citation for heroic service and was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps.

Several members of his squad were killed in Iraq, and when he returned stateside, the North Kansas City High School graduate began experiencing depression and nightmares and became withdrawn and moody. He also started drinking heavily.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Kansas City residents will vote on the fate of existing facilities at KCI in a week. We hit the most common points of concern about the project, and city council members Jolie Justus, 4th District, and Dan Fowler, 2nd District, respond to them.

Elana Gordon / KCUR 89.3

A company that challenged the no-bid contract awarded to Cerner Corp. to update the electronic health records system of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit.

CliniComp International Inc. of San Diego on Monday filed a notice of appeal after the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., last week threw out its lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds.

Because many of the documents in the case are sealed, including the court’s orders, the precise reasons for the case’s dismissal were not made public.

Wikimedia Commons

During the Vietnam War, military conflict in Southeast Asia aggravated flaring social issues back home. Today, we discuss how activism during the war advanced the fight for civil rights on many fronts, and how mass protests then compare to today's resistance movements. Then, renowned biographer Walter Issacson takes us into the mind of Leonardo da Vinci.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

More than 40 years after the Vietnam War ended, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is still helping Kansas City readers understand the nature of conflict.

How do Kansas Citians remember the Vietnam War? Two veterans and a conscientious objector look back. Have our memories of Vietnam shaped our responses to more recent conflicts?

Guests:

Damron Russel Armstrong

People need space to talk about war these days, says Anne Gatschet.

“We live in a world that’s got a lot of war. I think all of us are dealing with how to talk-slash-not talk about a great deal of pain and injury, moral and physical,” says Gatschet, who is president of the board at The Writers Place.

Gatschet's grandfather was killed in World War II, but her parents and extended family won’t talk about it. She says that leaves a void.

Bill Anderson / KCUR 89.3

From Mexico to Montreal, the migration of the monarch butterfly is truly Odyssean in nature. Today, we visit with a Kansas City cyclist who is pedaling the butterflies' 10,000-mile voyage to raise awareness for their declining population. Then, we hear stories of America's deported veterans and learn how the practice is affecting the families and communities expelled service members leave behind.

Atchison County Detention Center

Updated: Friday, Nov. 3, 1:45 p.m.

Former Eastern Kansas VA Hospital physician assistant Mark E. Wisner was sentenced Friday to 15 years and seven months in prison for sexually abusing patients. 

Wisner was convicted of one felony count each of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated criminal sodomy and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery in August.

Elana Gordon / KCUR 89.3

A provider of electronic health records systems for the U.S. Department of Defense is challenging the contract awarded to Cerner Corp. to develop the next-generation electronic health records system (EHR) for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Sgt. 1st Class John Fries / 81st Regional Support Command

From homelessness to suicide, we hear a lot about the serious issues facing American veterans. Today, we explore how business-ownership can play a part in reintegrating some former service members to a happy, healthy civilian life. Then, Kansas City, Missouri, officials Sherri McIntyre and Joe Blankenship help parse what's behind recent delays in projects to paint bike lanes in the downtown loop.

Marleah Campbell / KCUR 89.3

“Kansas City has PTS,” says Justin Hoover, director of marketing at Warriors’ Ascent. “Our warriors do, our first responders do.”

“And if they do, so do we.”

Warriors' Ascent

For many veterans battles don't end overseas; sometimes they follow you home. A Kansas City group is helping veterans and first responders recover from post-traumatic stress with holistic methods including meditation, yoga and a paleo diet. Then, members from the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion describe the work being done to connect Kansas City, Missouri, residents to the internet, and close the digital divide.

Courtesy of David Strange

American troops have been in Iraq for nearly three decades. From Operation Desert Storm under George H. W. Bush back in the 1990s, to a U.S.-led intervention that started in 2014 under Barack Obama and continues under our new administration. 

Three Kansas City veterans reflect on their service in the Middle Eastern country, and their lives before and after.

Senior Airman Kerry Steuart

Kerry Steuart joined the Air Force in 1991, a career move reflecting an economic depression in Oklahoma at the time, where Steuart was living.

Courtesy of David Strange

American troops have been in Iraq for three decades, from Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s to today, with civilians trapped in the ISIS-held city of Mosul.

A conversation with three local veterans who have served in Iraq at different times and under different administrations.

Guests:

Wikimedia Commons

The Vietnam War didn't end silently, it went out to the loud riffs of rock n' roll. Revisit the songs that shaped the 1960s and '70s, and captured the moods of soldiers overseas and civilians at home. We also find out how the electric guitar became the international symbol of freedom, danger and rebellion.

A torrent of civil lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse by a former employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Leavenworth is expected now that a federal judge has refused to dismiss one of the cases.

Three more lawsuits were filed this week in federal court, bringing the total to 15 so far, and dozens more are expected to be filed in coming months.

The suits by military veterans accuse Mark E. Wisner, a one-time physician’s assistant at the hospital who held himself out as a doctor, of sexually molesting them during physical exams.

Daniel Wood / KCUR 89.3

As part of events marking  the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the city of Mission, Kansas, hosted a memorial at the Sylvester Powell Junior Community Center. About 70 local residents, including a number of veterans and current servicemen and women, attended. Among them, one of the last survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Dorwin Lamkin, a 94-year-old Shawnee resident,  was a hospital corpsman in the USS Nevada’s sickbay when the battleship was hit by a Japanese torpedo and started to sink.

James Hugo Rifenbark

Kyle Powell died in my arms, November 4, 2006.

That's the first line of Gerardo "Tony" Mena's poem "So I Was a Coffin," which he set to music, added photographs from other members of the United States Marine Corps' 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, and posted on YouTube.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

A million-dollar housing project in Kansas City is being built to achieve two things: get homeless veterans permanent housing and restore blighted, abandoned properties in the urban core. 

Neighborhoods United, an area non-profit, is teaming up with the Kansas City, Missouri, branch of the NAACP and the Black Economic Union to restore empty properties in blighted neighborhoods and convert them into energy-efficient duplexes for veterans and people with disabilities. 

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