Veterans

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to speak about their participation in the tests until 1996 when the Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreements Laws were repealed.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.

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.

 

A chance encounter between an Air Force veteran and a police officer in North Carolina helped launch a program to connect first responders with veterans in crisis.

Chief Blair Myhand and Officer Jonathan Guider of the Clayton Police Department spoke at a panel hosted by the Library of Congress last week on Veterans Crisis Intervention Training. The program teaches first responders with military backgrounds how to leverage that shared experience to de-escalate crisis situations involving veterans.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Time To Bow Out'

Dec 28, 2018
Zach Stamey / Focus Media

This year, after more than a decade of service as a linguist and a paratrooper, Jay Huwieler made the decision to leave the military.  

“It was a combination of feeling like I’d served my purpose, and at the same time feeling like there had been too many times when I was too far away from my wife,” he said.
 

Huwieler recalled his sergeant major telling him: “One day you’re not going to be in the Army. When it’s over, there needs to be a family there because you didn’t leave them behind.”

Jay Price / WUNC

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are digging up hundreds of soldiers from the Korean War as part of a massive identification project. The disinterment operation is taking place at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu and is based on recent advances in DNA and forensic technology. 650 Korean War dead will be exhumed. 

Courtesy of Carolina Demography

North Carolina is home to two of the world’s largest military bases — the Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune — but the state’s population of veterans is steadily declining.

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. 

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

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.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Square Peg In A Round Hole'

Aug 26, 2018
Lynn and Steve Newsom hold a banner for Quaker House
Lynn Newsom

Steve Newsom and his wife Lynn spent five years as co-directors of Quaker House, the Fayetteville nonprofit that advocates for peace and supports service members who question their role in the military. 

As a young man growing up New Jersey, Steve thought he might spend his entire adult career in the military, joining the Navy in 1972. 

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.

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.

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.

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." 

Gov. Roy Cooper announces a reduction in the number of homeless veterans. Seated are Secretary of the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Larry D. Hall (left) and Terry Allebaugh of the N.C. Coalition to End Homelessness
Jay Price / WUNC

North Carolina is having more success in its long-running battle to reduce homelessness among veterans.

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.

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: 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.

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.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Everybody Talks On The Tattoo Table'

Apr 20, 2018
Kayla Knight prepares to get tattooed at the All American Tattoo Convention in Fayetteville.
Matt Couch / WUNC

Soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg support a thriving tattoo industry in Fayetteville and the surrounding towns. For some, the process of getting ink is just as important as the artwork.

Deana Martorella Orellana's mother, Laurel Martorella (left), and Orellana's sister, Robin Jewell, hold her Marine Corps photo. Orellana killed herself a year after leaving the Marines. She had agreed to undergo counseling the day she died.
Jay Price / American Homefront

Female veterans are nearly 2 1/2 times more likely to commit suicide than civilian women, according to data from the Veterans Administration Suicide Prevention Program. The same data show male veterans are 18 percent more likely to kill themselves than civilian men. Why are female veterans struggling? The advocacy group Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) released six recommendations on the mental health needs of women service members and veterans based on a poll of veterans in the civilian world and women on active duty.

FT.BRAGG STORIES: Answering The Call

Apr 6, 2018
Bill Wadford speaks at a live story-telling event in Fayetteville, N.C.
Matt Couch / WUNC

Rapid deployments are a fact of life for soldiers at Fort Bragg. Once notice is given, paratroopers have just 18 hours to prepare to go anywhere in the world.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'The Fireball Went Over'

Mar 23, 2018
Portrait of Richard Clapp
Courtesy Richard Clapp

"I was only in the military six months when the disaster happened," recalled Richard Clapp. He was 19 years old on March 23, 1994, fresh out of basic training and jump school. He'd been at Fort Bragg just three weeks. That afternoon he stood on Green Ramp waiting to make his first official jump with the 82nd Airborne.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'I Was Ready For A Challenge'

Mar 12, 2018
Courtesy Tom McCollum

When Tom McCollum transitioned from the 82nd Airborne to Special Forces, he knew the training would be tough.

When veterans with war injuries need accessible housing, they often have few options.

Portrait of CPT. Kenisha Wilkerson
Matt Couch / WUNC

Kenisha Wilkerson was drawn to military service, despite some initial uncertainty.

"I was a little confused at first," said Wilkerson. "I was going back and forth, like, 'uhh, I might not be built for the Army.' But I knew I wanted to serve."

Portrait of Col. (Ret.) Fred Black
Courtesy of Fred Black

As a young lieutenant in 1969, Fred Black was one of a handful of African-American officers at Fort Bragg. He said racial tensions rarely came to a head on post, but black soldiers could face discrimination when they ventured into the wider community.

Portrait of Mike Thomas.
Matt Couch / WUNC

Mike Thomas was a young captain in the summer of 1990 when he got orders to deploy to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield. After spending nine months in the Gulf, he flew home to Fort Bragg.

Homelessness often looks different for veterans living in rural communities: Rather than living in the streets, they may be couch-surfacing, sleeping in their cars, or camping in the woods.

Four World War II veterans were honored with Legion of Honor awards at a Raleigh ceremony.  From left: Morton Jacobs of New Bern, John P. Irby, III of Raleigh, Robert C. Senter of Fuquay-Varina, and Salvatore Maiello of Fayetteville.
Jay Price / WUNC

The number of North Carolina veterans who fought in World War II is declining. But last week, four of them got an official thanks from a country they helped liberate.

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