veterans

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. 

The creator and editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.com talks about the challenges facing Muslim women in the wake of Donald Trump's election. Then we examine the soundtrack of the Vietnam War, and listen to some of the songs that helped American troops get through the conflict.

Courtesy University of Kansas

 

For the second year in a row, the University of Kansas has been ranked as a top-10 best school in the country for veterans by the Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings.

Ben and Leticia Ward have built their Colorado farm using decommissioned military gear and found materials.
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Ben and Leticia Ward’s farm in Fountain, Colorado, just outside Colorado Springs, doesn’t look like an army base. But it’s not hard to uncover whiffs of military influence at Little Roman Farm.

A stack of sturdy fiberglass bins next to a greenhouse seem benign, ready to be put to use as brooding bins for chickens or an aquaponics system to grow veggies and fish at the same time. The bins once housed Joint Direct Attack Munition, or part of a system that controls “smart bombs.”

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

It’s the serviceman who beats himself up about being unable to save a dying buddy. Or the truck driver who follows orders to run over children in the road, because they might be placed there to facilitate an ambush of a convoy.

While it has been more than half a century since the United States began celebrating Veterans Day, the national holiday the nation observes Friday, it has only been in the recent past that military mental health professionals have parsed out what they consider to be a significant after-effect of service.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fellman says a chance passerby — or, perhaps, divine intervention — kept him alive when the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder became overwhelming.

Fellman, a combat veteran of the Iraq War who spoke Friday at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs summit in Topeka about mental health care, said he had planned to die on July 31, 2015.

Courtesy photo - Storycorps

This story was updated on Tuesday to add remarks by U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs. 

Scott Wright, a federal judge in Kansas City for 35 years, died today. He was 93.

Wright was nominated to the federal bench in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. He was chief judge from 1985 to 1990 and took senior status in 1991, but continued to handle a full caseload until ill health forced him to step down a couple of years ago.

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.

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