Military

Ashely Evans / Western Carolina University

Kevin Rumley had a near-picturesque upbringing that he describes being like a 1950s Disney movie. Growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, Rumley and his two brothers played music, rollerbladed and skateboarded on the halfpipe their dad built them.

Thank you for your service.

We’ll say those words a lot in observance of Veterans Day. It’s the least we can do, and by that I mean it’s the least we can do. They’re not empty words, exactly. Most of us really are grateful for the sacrifices veterans made on our behalf. But it’s sort of like offering thoughts and prayers to people who have just been through a disaster. The words do more good for the giver than the receiver.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'No End In Sight'

Nov 11, 2018
Kelly Rodriguez and her son Antonio snap a selfie in uniform.
Kelly Rodriguez

Sergeant First Class Kelly Rodriguez deployed more than five times in the course of her 21-year military career, serving as an Army Combat Medic in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and twice in Afghanistan. She loved her work, but it exposed her to some of the worst realities of war.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Journey Through Darkness'

Nov 4, 2018
Major Ivan Castro shared his story at a live storytelling event at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville on August 18, 2018.
Elizabeth Friend

Retired Major Ivan Castro’s life was forever changed September 2, 2006, when a mortar landed near him in Iraq. Two of the men in his unit were killed and Castro was gravely injured. The attack left him completely blind, facing a long road to recovery.

A new study suggests military spouses vote much less than servicemembers, and they may not be getting the help they need to cast their votes.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'We Try To Debunk'

Oct 28, 2018
A mist photographed during Armando Nunez's first investigation at Cross Creek Cemetery, January, 2008.
Courtesy of Armando Nunez

In 2008, Armando Nunez and a friend decided on a whim to try their hand at ghost-hunting by taking pictures in a local cemetery. His wife Joanna and friend Tom Kuntz soon joined in and together they founded the Paranormal Research Organization of Fayetteville, or PROOF.

At "recreational therapy" camps, outdoor activities and mindfulness help veterans with PTSD, sexual trauma, and other issues.

The VA says 8500 requests for wheelchairs, artificial limbs, and other equipment have waited more than 30 days. That's down from 64,000 requests last year.

courtesy of Alfredo Hurtado

When Alfredo Hurtado signed up to become a member of an Army military police unit, he figured he would be eating donuts and sitting in cars all day. Then the Sept. 11 attacks happened. Hurtado found himself guarding the twisted, dark corridors of the Pentagon, then detaining prisoners in Afghanistan. On his next deployment, to Iraq, his convoy hit an improvised explosive device that left Hurtado injured and in pain. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'A National Emergency'

Oct 21, 2018
Portrait of Leon Jones
Jean Wilson

Jean Wilson was a college freshman on October 22, 1962, when she heard President John F. Kennedy’s speech announcing the presence of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on the island of Cuba.       

“It sounded like an emergency, like a national emergency,” Wilson said. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Hurricane Florence

Oct 14, 2018
Spc. Alvarez carries a package of bottled water to a family in New Bern, North Carolina, Sept. 21, 2018.
Pfc. Audrianna Arellano / 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade

Hundreds of soldiers aided in Hurricane Florence rescue and recovery efforts, even as some saw their own homes flooded or evacuated. 

Specialist Ruben Alvarez is a parachute rigger at Fort Bragg. During the storm, he volunteered to help evacuate houses, working long shifts with the 189th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

"Ring of Red: A Barrio Story" relies on oral histories to tell the rarely heard stories of Mexican-American veterans.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Earning The President's Hundred Tab

Oct 7, 2018
Portrait of Spc. Jonathon Wannemacher
Sgt. Brian Stephenson / 49th Public Affairs Detachment, Fort Bragg

Specialist Jonathon Wannemacher is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne. He’s also a skilled marksman. At age 26, he’s ranked as one of the top 100 competitive shooters in the country. He placed 81 out of roughly 1,200 shooters in the President’s Hundred Match, a national competition held this past July in Camp Perry, OH.

Copyright 2018 North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC.

Portrait of Nicole Coschigano
Nicole Coschigano

The Base Realignment and Closure process of 2005 shut down 24 military installations across the country and consolidated many more.

Fort Bragg grew as a result, adding the U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command.

Retired Army combat medic Kelly Rodriguez talks about the mixed emotions she felt when her son joined the Army and left on his first deployment.
Elizabeth Friend / WUNC

As part of Fort Bragg's 100 anniversary commemoration, WUNC hosted an hour of storytelling about life on and around the nation's largest Army base.

Nurse Carpathia McRavin, left, draws blood from Bud Sadler, right, of Cedar Point, at a Veterans Affairs mobile health clinic in Havelock on Thursday, September 20, 2018 following Hurricane Florence.
Madeline Gray / For WUNC

The VA is trying to take care of hundreds of thousands of veterans in hurricane-damaged Eastern North Carolina. Some have medical problems that could be worsened by the storm; others have housing needs. 

An agency pilot program aims to bypass regulations that can make it hard for veterans to get cutting-edge medical treatment.

Approximately 5 million veterans live in rural America, and almost sixty percent of them rely on VA healthcare. But accessing that care can be a challenge.

Not all racially-motivated killings in the Jim Crow-era were classified as "lynchings." Activists are trying to document the rest.

Actors reenact a 1946 lynching in Walton County, Ga. in which a veteran, his wife, and another couple were killed. The reenactment is an annual event staged by actors and civil rights activists.
Jay Price / WUNC

As they returned home from war, proud of their service, black veterans in the south often encountered suspicion, resentment, and - in some cases - brutal violence.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: First Flight

Sep 23, 2018
Potrait of Bob Dean as a young man
Bob Dean

Bob Dean was a twenty-year-old rising senior at Cornell in 1950. When the Korean War started that summer, he was training with his ROTC class at Fort Bragg.

“I recall for the early part of the training, we had a heck of a good time,” said Dean, now 88. “We did not take it seriously.”
 

Dean was learning the basics of artillery leadership, including aerial observation. He was delighted to be the first in his class selected to go up in a small plane over the ranges to practice adjusting artillery fire from the air.  

It was his very first plane ride.

Around the country, state governments and other agencies are trying to promote entrepreneurship among military veterans.

Last year, the VA began offering mental health treatment to vets who don't normally qualify for V-A care. Since then, fewer than 200 people have used the program.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'The Checkpoints Went Up Overnight'

Sep 9, 2018
Fort Bragg
Fort Bragg

Growing up on Fort Bragg as the son of an active duty service member, Josh Groll saw the military installation as his home, a small town insulated from the rest of the world.

The VA has opened more call centers and hired hundreds of additional responders after complaints that some callers experienced long hold times or were sent to voicemail.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Time Stood Still'

Sep 2, 2018
Portrait of Shelli Altopp-Miller
Shelli Altopp-Miller

In the fall of 2001, Shelli Altopp-Miller was living with her husband and two small children at Pope Air Force Base. He was on active duty with the Air Force, she was a stay-at-home mother. 

The number of veterans in the VA healthcare system who are 70 or older is expected to grow 30 percent in the next eight years.

Veterans now make up less than 20 percent of Congress, compared with about 75 percent in the 1960s. Some high-profile candidates are trying to reverse that trend.

U.S. Defense Department forensic anthropologists in Wonsan, North Korea examine the contents of boxes containing the possible remains of U.S. MIAs July 27, 2018.
David Marshall / U.S. Army

Families hope advances in DNA technology and thawing U.S./North Korean relations will help the government recover and identify long-missing remains of service members.

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