Military

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'He Stood Out In My Mind'

Aug 19, 2018
Mary Ellen Shugart holds a portrait of herself as a young Army nurse in Vietnam.
Matt Couch

Mary Ellen Shugart served two tours as an Army nurse in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 70s. She treated hundreds of soldiers, but the memory of one young man at Fort Bragg stayed with her through the years.

She recalled treating a soldier in the ICU and Recovery Ward at Womack Army Hospital in 1966. Injured in Vietnam, he’d been flown back to the U.S. for treatment for an abdominal wound.

Jung Yeon-je / AP Photo

Families of U.S. troops who went missing during the Korean War gathered in Washington D.C. last weekend with a renewed sense of optimism

55 boxes that may contain remains of service members killed during the war were recently repatriated from North Korea, and advances in science may help experts identify who those remains belong to. Almost 8,000 U.S. troops who went missing during the Korean War are still unaccounted for.

Facing a shortage of pilots, the Air Force is experimenting with ways to make training programs faster and less expensive.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'The War Is Over'

Aug 12, 2018
A portrait of Bill Reid, age 17.
Holly Reid

Bill Reid is 92 now, but back in 1944 he was just 18 when he was drafted to fight in World War II. He traveled by train from New Jersey to Fort Bragg for 17 weeks of training before heading off to Europe. 

On his first day at Bragg, Reid recalled he was not impressed with his initial assignment.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'More Than Ink And Skin'

Aug 5, 2018
Lewis Hunt's tattoo commemorates his grandfather, his parents, and his own military service.
Matt Couch

Tattoos have long been a hallmark of military service. Memorial tattoos, in particular, have a special place in the armed forces. Images inked on flesh can pay tribute to those who have served, salute the fallen, and help soldiers and their families commemorate life changing events.

During World War II, more than a quarter million Filipinos fought alongside American soldiers. Many are still awaiting the recognition promised to them.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'We're Ready To Start Healing'

Jul 29, 2018
Mike Duskin stands with his wife Maggie
Maggie Duskin

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Duskin served with the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. During seven deployments over the course of 15 years, he and his wife Maggie established routines to cope with his absences and keep the lives of their three children running smoothly.

From 2009 to 2016, the Defense Department recruited more than 10,000 non-citizens into the armed forces. Now some say they're being discharged without explanation.

Under the Trump administration, the military is shifting its strategy back towards more traditional warfare.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'It Made Me Understand'

Jul 22, 2018
Joe Garcia holds his infant daughter Joanna
Joanna Nunez

Joanna Nunez's father, Joe Garcia, served two tours in Vietnam before retiring from the Army in the early 80s. Growing up in Fayetteville, she recalls her father was often distant and irritable, with dark mood swings that were hard to predict.

Members of the 117th Infantry Regiment (30th Infantry Division), Malmèdy, Stavelot, La Gleize (December 1944)
Photo Courtesy N.C. National Guard

The predecessor of a North Carolina National Guard unit has been turned down for one of the nation's highest military honors. The citation would have recognized the unit's heroism in World War II.

There are signs that transgender people could serve openly in the United States military within the next year.
The U.S. Army / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina came close but ultimately fell short in its effort to lure the U.S. Army's new Futures Command to the Triangle.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Not Afraid Of The Fight'

Jul 15, 2018
Portrait of James Quigg
Norman Kent Photography

Many soldiers who decide to leave the military put their training to use in civilian careers. James Quigg is no different, although his career choice is somewhat unusual.  

He's a professional mixed martial arts fighter known as the Gentleman Brawler. 

"It can be pretty miserable to fight me, even if you're winning," said Quigg. "I'm not afraid of the fight." 

About 84,000 service members are married to another member of the military, and some find it hard to balance their marriages with their careers.

Tony Jaber, now 93, was part of the 30th Infantry Division, nicknamed Old Hickory, which was sent into Normandy right after D-Day. It soon found itself badly outnumbered by some of Germany’s toughest units in a battle at the small French town of Mortain.
Jay Price / WUNC

Three-quarters of a century after its World War II battles, an entire division of thousands of National Guard soldiers is up for the highest honor a military unit can receive.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'I Refused That Fate'

Jul 8, 2018
A portrait of Solomon Abanda
Solomon Abanda

Sergeant Solomon Abanda proudly serves in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, but his path to get there has been complicated. 

Born in Cameroon, Abanda came to the U.S. at 19 to study.  After a series of missteps, he found himself living on the streets in Los Angeles.  

He was homeless for two years before a chance encounter set his life on a different course. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'It's Like A Mad Rush'

Jul 1, 2018
Fireworks explode on the Fourth of July at Fort Bragg's Main Post Parade Field.
Pyro Shows

The Fourth of July is a big deal at Fort Bragg, where the annual concert and fireworks display regularly draw a crowd of 40,000.

Danny Sheckles is a pyrotechnician with Pyro Shows, a Tennessee-based company that produces firework displays at Fort Bragg and throughout the southeast.

Congress mandated the card in 2015, but provided no funding. So the VA struck a deal with Office Depot.

As the Senate considers Robert Wilkie's nomination for VA secretary, veterans groups worry that the agency's leadership gap has slowed its work.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'It Was A Hard Time'

Jun 24, 2018
Courtesy of Meg Miller

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Miller served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam before retiring to Fayetteville to run a grocery store in the late 60s and early 70s.

 The Boulevard Supermarket on Bragg Boulevard was a small mom-and-pop store catering to the many young G.I's who cycled through Fort Bragg on their way to the Vietnam war.

Gabriella Bulgarelli / WUNC

For James Roy Gorham, growing up in the small farming community of Falkland, NC was full of tough lessons, and he learned many of them from his father.

For her new album, Nashville singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier collaborated with veterans to write songs about war, service, and life after the military.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Ducking Out Of Operation Clean Sweep

Jun 17, 2018
Portait of Jay Huwieler
Jay Huwieler

Each year, the men and women of Fort Bragg celebrate All-American Week, a time to showcase the valor and pride of the 82nd Airborne.  

But the behind-the-scenes preparation is less glamorous. The prior week is spent deep cleaning every inch of the 163,000-acre military installation, an annual chore known as Operation Clean Sweep.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Challenge Coins

Jun 10, 2018
Portrait of Steven Moore
Matt Couch / WUNC

Steven Moore has never served in the military, but for the past 16 years he's been serving the Fort Bragg community, specializing in the design of military challenge coins.

More than just collectible tokens, the coins are a concrete way to commemorate shared service and personal achievement. Commanders award them with a solemn handshake, and soldiers often treasure them as keepsakes.

“I’m told by the soldiers that they are highly coveted items, and gives them incentive to earn them,” Moore said.

Civilian contractor Terry Pullum of Evolving Resources Inc. gives young Marines their first hands-on lesson in flying the InstantEye quadcopter.
Jay Price / WUNC

One Marine in each rifle squad will be designated to fly small drones and run some of the Marines' expanding array of other digital devices.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Remembering D-Day

Jun 3, 2018
Portrait of Kenneth "Rock" Merritt taken during World War II
Kenneth "Rock" Merritt

At 94, retired Command Sergeant Major Kenneth “Rock” Merritt is something of a living legend in the Fort Bragg community.

During World War II, Merritt was a young paratrooper with the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was one of thousands of soldiers who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

“The war into Normandy, I guess simply put, it was hell. That’s really what it was,” Merritt said.

In California - a state with strong differences with the White House on immigration policy - about 400 troops are on border duty. But they're keeping a low profile.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'I Looked Into That Soldier's Eyes'

May 27, 2018
David Goforth training at Fort Bragg in 1980.
David Goforth

As a young man, David Goforth served in the National Guard throughout the 1980s. He enjoyed weekends practicing drills at Fort Bragg until he came upon a training accident that gave him pause. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'They Don't Tell You Much'

May 20, 2018

Debbie Crain and Laura Lauffer both grew up near Fort Bragg, both with fathers in the military. Crain's father fought in World War II, Lauffer's served in Vietnam. Like many who have seen combat, neither man talked much about their experiences. As adults, both women found themselves looking for answers about their fathers' military service.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, during an event on prison reform in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 18, 2018, in Washington
Evan Vucci / AP

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is President Donald Trump's pick to permanently lead the beleaguered department.

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