American Homefront

The American Homefront Project is reporting on military life and veterans issues. We're visiting bases to chronicle how troops are working and living. We're meeting military families. We're talking with veterans  to learn about the challenges they face.

We cover major policy issues at the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs, and we report on the family issues that service members and veterans experience in their daily lives. From the youngest military recruits to the veterans of World War II, we're reporting in-depth stories about Americans who serve.

Funding for WUNC's American Homefront Project comes from:

For more information, visit the American Homefront website.

In response to a string of suicides in the Air Force, every base is holding a one day stand down, where airmen can learn and talk about mental health issues.

Mold has long been a problem at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. But when airmen started posting photos on Facebook, the Air Force stepped up its response.

Image of a nuclear bomb test explosion in the Pacific in 1958.
Nevada National Security Site

More than 500,000 American veterans were exposed to nuclear weapons tests from the 1940s to the early 1990s. These so-called "atomic veterans" were not permitted to speak about their participation in the tests until 1996 when the Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreements Laws were repealed. Now the veterans who were exposed to the radiation from the weapons program will be offered a certificate marking their contribution.

The military is spending millions of dollars to clean up water contamination around bases throughout the country. But people living with the contamination say the money has not gone nearly far enough.

The new certificate recognizes as many as 550,000 veterans who were exposed to nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1992. But the certificates leave a lot of atomic veterans underwhelmed.

A thousand National Guard troops from Texas will try to address one of the unintended results of President Trump’s immigration crackdown -- traffic jams that are slowing international commerce.

The Government Accountability Office says the military isn't doing enough to deal with the effects of climate change, after more than $9 billion in hurricane and flood-related damage to three bases in less than a year.

Some VA medical centers have realized that helping vets get back in the game can also help with their recovery.

During the eight months they've been deployed at the U.S.-Mexico border, military personnel have had little direct contact with the people at the center of the mission.

Congress is considering legislation to encourage "outdoor therapy" for veterans with injuries or post-traumatic stress. Volunteer groups are already running similar programs in national parks.

 

98-year-old Normandy survivor Ray Lambert (left) accepts a plaque at a June 2018 ceremony. Fort Bragg paratroopers splashed down in his Moore County neighborhood as part of a salute to his service.
Ted Fitzgerald / The Pilot (Southern Pines, N.C.)

As he takes part in the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Normandy invasion, Ray Lambert of Moore County, N.C. worries that his generation's values have eroded.

5th graders from J.S. Waters Elementary School in Chatham County visit the USS North Carolina. The ship gets more than a quarter of a million visitors a year, many of them  with school groups who come to learn about its history.
Jay Price / WUNC

"Vulnerable" seems like the last word to describe a 70 million-pound armored ship that can fire shells weighing as much as a car. But now the USS North Carolina, one of the state's most iconic tourist attractions, has a new enemy … and a new battle plan.

Shantelle Campbell / U.S. Army

The settlement with earplug manufacturer 3M has focused attention on service-related hearing loss, one of the most common health problems among veterans.

To keep up with potential adversaries such as China, the Pentagon is teaming with civilian technological innovators and trying to adopt some of the practices of the private sector.

Encouraged by a Library of Congress initiative, volunteers and non-profit groups around the country are recording and preserving veterans' voices.

In a first of its kind program, the VA in Long Beach, Cal. is partnering with law enforcement to proactively reach military veterans with mental health issues.

President Trump's restrictions on transgender troops moved a step closer to taking effect, even as several lawsuits challenging the policy remain unresolved.

A Soldier from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment clears a building in Afghanistan in this 2010 file photo. A unit from the Regiment will reunite in 2019 for mental health treatment.
Christine Jones / U.S. Army

The VA and a Charlotte-based non-profit have teamed up to try a new approach to mental health treatment for veterans. They're reuniting entire units for therapy in a pilot program called Operation Resiliency.

For thousands of elderly veterans, long term care means living in a nursing home or institutional care setting. But some have found a much homier option.

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

Active-duty troops are now at the U.S. border with Mexico, two weeks after President Trump ordered the deployment in response to a large group of migrants headed north from Central America.

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.

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

Inflexible work schedules and lack of support can make it tough for new mothers in the military to keep breastfeeding their children.

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.

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