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Children from the TAPS Good Grief Camp participating in workshops to help heal wounds from the suicide of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces.

Vets Voices: It’s Okay to Talk About It

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By Kiersten Downs WUSF Veterans Coming Home Outreach Coordinator Over time, the sharp and jagged pieces of a broken green bottle have been transformed into a smooth and beautiful beach gem that we call sea glass. While sitting in a circle with fellow mentors and mentees, we were asked by our group leader what was special about the sea glass. My nine-year-old mentee raised her little hand and in a sweet and shaky voice said, “that it changed over time”. This was the theme for the National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors held this past weekend in St. Pete Beach, Florida by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). For those who are unfamiliar with the work of this incredible organization, TAPS provides immediate and long-term emotional help, hope, and healing to all who are grieving the death of a loved one in military service to America. The 170 children who participated in the Good Grief Camp have lost a military loved one to suicide. I am not alone in saying that participating in the Good Grief Camp, as a mentor was one of the most powerful volunteer efforts I have ever experienced. A resounding theme repeated throughout the weekend that needs to be replicated not just at a suicide seminar but on our military bases is that “suicide is talked about here”. The existing stigma surrounding suicide gravely impacts those who have lost a loved one and silence on the subject also silences the living memories of those who have died, complicating grief even further. We understand that not everyone is at the point where they can talk openly about what brought them to the camp, but by stating that “suicide is talked about here” we are letting them know that this is a safe place where they can honor the memories of their loved ones with people who care and often times share similar life experiences. What I witnessed was a community of people coming together to help heal open wounds, some new and some long-standing. We painted together, we talked together, we cried together. We watched as kids were allowed to be kids. My mentee left footprints on my heart and taught me one of the most important lessons of all time. On Sunday afternoon, after we watched as the ocean waves washed away the words that we drew in the sand - “bad thoughts” and “nightmares” - I asked her what she was going to take home from camp. Her reply was, “that things change with time and it’s okay to talk about it.” For more information go to www.taps.org. If you or a loved one are in crisis, Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1chat online, or send a text

Naming your chili entry is half the fun of participating in the USF Office of Veterans Services Chili Cook-Off, now in its fifth year.

Chili Cook-Off Connects Vets to Campus

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Over the last five years the University of South Florida Office of Veterans Services has worked to raise its visibility among the estimated 1,400 student veterans on campus and provide them resources. One way USF Veterans Services has gained a lot of notice is its annual Chili Cook-Off. This year, the Office of Veterans Services 5th Annual Chili Cook-Off is scheduled 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5, 2014 at the Marshall Center Amphitheater on the Tampa Campus, 4202 E. Fowler Ave. http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wusf/audio/2014/10/10-17_ON-AIR_OTB-VCH_Chili_Cookoff.mp3 Evan Itle, associate director of the USF Office of Veterans Affairs, says the Chili Cook-Off has grown in popularity and may hit their maximum of 24 participants this year. “There actually could be people we’ve got to tell no,” Itle said. “And we don’t want to tell people no.” In fact, they’re excited about bringing in new participants from beyond the USF Tampa Campus such as the Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce which plans to enter a chili dish. The cook-off also works as an outreach event for both student veterans and other students on campus. More than 400 students, faculty and USF staff attended the free 2013 event to taste-test the entries. Last year’s winning recipe came from the home kitchen of Royce Thomas, location manager for the Fresh Foods Company USF Dining facility. He didn’t divulge his recipe, but did share a major secret to “great chili” is cumin. “The way that I like my chili profile to come across is a little sweet up front and a little hot in the back,” Thomas said. It’s a matter of pride to Thomas that he used his own home recipe to beat out 19 other competitors because to him, chili is a comfort food. “We used to have chili night in college and everybody would come with a bunch of ingredients and make chili and have a good time,” Thomas said. “You can make chili a thousand different ways and that’s what I love about it, there is no one, great chili.” He was surprised to win the competition in 2013 and declined to enter this year so others from his dining facility could try their hand. “It’s really about the cause. It’s not about the competition, it’s not about the chili,” Thomas said. And that cause is the USF Office of Veterans Affairs. Director Larry Braue said the office has grown in visibility along with the contest that went from about 200 the first year to more than 400 participants in 2013. “We have a vision to go beyond this and not just tie our veterans to the USF community, but to tie them to the Tampa Bay community,” Braue said. The 5th Annual USF OVS Chili Cook-Off is one of several events planned for Veterans Week at USF. Student veterans will be honored at a football game that includes a tailgate graduation bash. There’s an expo of veteran services and a Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 4, 2014 that will feature Medal of Honor Recipient Army Ranger Master Sergeant Leroy Petry. Braue said the wounded warrior will speak to USF student veterans about life after the Army and life after the military and to USF student athletes. “He’s a typical student veteran, although he’s not a typical man, he will be on a campus just like all of our student veterans going to school and earning his degree,” Braue said. You can learn more about the 5th Annual Chili Cook-Off, the Veterans’ Week Ceremony and Expo and the USF Office of Veterans Affairs. The deadline to register is Oct. 29, 2014, but entries are limited so don't stew over it. Reporting for the WUSF Veterans Coming Home project is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Saint Leo University Veteran Student Services made dog tags to honor their student veterans.

Vets Offered Civilian Transition Course

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http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wusf/audio/2014/09/9-26_OTB-VCH_st_leo_transition_course_ONAIR.MP3 It’s difficult to define today’s military veteran. But there is one thing they have in common - they don’t like being painted with the same broad brush. “Just because I’m a veteran, particularly me because I’m a Marine, a combat Marine, don’t think you know my political affiliation, my beliefs, my values,” said Tedd “Gunny” Weiser, short for Gunnery Sergeant. “There is a label and we want to shed that, we want people to know that we are our own person.” After 20 years in the Marine Corps, Weiser has become a touchstone for the veterans at Saint Leo University where he’s now interim director of Veteran Student Services. He knows what it’s like to have difficulty moving into the civilian world, to hit rock-bottom with post-traumatic stress symptoms “starting to rear their ugly head.” “It came to a point one day at a traffic stop. I actually put my car in park, got out of the car, ran up two or three car lengths ahead of me to tell the driver who cut me off six miles back what I thought of him and my wife said, ‘That’s enough,’” Weiser said. He got help from the VA for his PTS and decided to pursue his passion and his faith which led Weiser to Saint Leo University where he’s working on two masters’ degrees in Religion and Instructional Design. But Weiser said he found his true calling running the Veteran Student Services office and the student veterans appear to be responding. When Weiser started as an assistant in December, he said they averaged about one to two veteran visits a week. Now, just weeks into the fall semester and more than 60 have come through the office. To help with the veterans’ adjust to campus life, a team at St. Leo University including Weiser, developed an online, Veterans Transition Course. They partnered with Corporate Gray, publishers of The Military to Civilian Transition Guide which is used by the Department of Defense. Saint. Leo created an online version. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for our student veterans and their families knowing that their time is limited and their resources are limited,” Weiser said. The course is broken into eight modules and is self-paced. So, it can take as little as eight weeks or as much as eight months to complete depending on a veteran’s needs. And the course is geared to more than academics. It also offers guidance on networking, interviewing, resume building and even negotiating salary and benefits. Weiser encourages the spouses and adult children of the student veteran to take the online course too. “Because if it helps them, then it helps that veteran because it’s one less thing that veteran has to worry about,” Weiser said. About one-third of Saint Leo’s 15,000-to-16,000 students are veterans or active duty military and a majority are not on the Pasco County campus. Saint Leo University has a College Online as well as 40 locations, many on military installations, throughout the U.S. “When others in the 70s were protesting military, Saint Leo went onto its first campus in North Florida and started teaching at a military installation,” Weiser said. “We just celebrated our 40th Anniversary last year.” That anniversary generated donations that created another program Saint Leo’s Student Veteran Emergency Fund. Since January, Weiser says they’ve given more than 30 gifts ranging from $200 to $500 to help with a financial crisis. The student veteran fills out an application, answers some questions about their financial problems. The circumstances are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Weiser said he tries to give the student veteran a response within 12 hours. “We’ve given money for, just last week, cancer medications, day care, car repair, unemployment, food, utility bills,” Weiser said. That isn’t the only gift St. Leo University Veteran Services is distributing. Their online transition course was initially just for their students. But earlier this month, the course was opened up to all transitioning military and veterans for free whether they’re headed to Saint Leo University, another college or into the job market. You can learn more about the online Veterans Transition Course here.

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Vets Voices: Why I joined VCH

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1098417_10152102294203098_556830153_nThis blog marks the first entry to kick off our new Veterans Coming Home (VCH) blogging series. We will be blogging about some of the extraordinary work being conducted by veteran’s service organizations across the Tampa Bay region and about the exceptional veterans living here. A big part of VCH has to do with using public media to share the personal stories of our local vets. If you would like to take part in this effort by sharing your story, let us know by emailing Veterans@wusf.org. To kick off our VCH blog, the crew at WUSF asked me to highlight a little bit of my personal story and talk about why I decided to join the WUSF Public Media team as the Community Engagement Coordinator for Veterans Coming Home. First things first, my name is Kiersten Downs, or just KD…this shortened version of my name continued to stick even after the time I spent in the Air Force. After being asked to join the project, I immediately accepted the position. Listening to public radio every morning has become a part of my daily routine, a habit instilled by my parents while I was growing up. The NPR jingle used to act like an alarm clock on early mornings before school. The position seemed like a logical and perfect fit given my past and current work with military veterans. The most exciting, challenging, and rewarding adventure I have ever completed was a cross-country cycling trip in 2013. The cycling trip was used as a fundraising and awareness campaign that ended up raising more than $50,000 for Student Veterans of America. It was my own experiences as a student veteran during my undergraduate years that motivated me to take on an advocacy role for this particular group of students. What culminated over the two months I spent riding from San Francisco to Washington D.C. was more than I could have ever imagined. The best part about the trip was meeting all of the student veterans and veteran supporters who cycled with me on the road. 1173849_10152171103453098_1768508049_n I had tremendous support from sponsors such as George Washington University, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cannondale, mtvU, VetAdvisor among others. The ride never would have been possible if it wasn’t for the help of my amazing support crew, consisting of my mom and our videographer, my good friend Annie. With a portion of the funds being delivered back to the Student Veterans Association at the University of South Florida, the rest of the money was used to assist with a chapter grant program for SVA. Peer run student veterans associations across the country gained funding through the chapter grant program to carry out projects housed on their own campuses. Although, still an avid cyclist, I won’t be planning another cross-country trip until I finish up my doctorate in Applied Anthropology at USF. Working on Veterans Coming Home is exciting for me because it is providing me with opportunities to reach out to other veterans and veteran service organizations across the Tampa Bay area. There are many services available for us (vets), and sometimes knowing where to go and what organizations are worthwhile and credible can be daunting. My goal is to help bring order to the disorder that exists within the veteran’s service world. The other valuable piece to VCH is the opportunity to use public media in order to provide vets with a platform to share their stories the way they want to share them. Or if you want to just share photos, that’s good too. We are really excited for the upcoming year and hope that you will continue to follow Veterans Coming Home at wusf.veteranscominghome.org or on twitter @WUSFVeterans. 429998_10151936939118098_1643991712_n

If you would like to learn more about Kiersten and her bike trip, visit www.bikingusa.net.

New VA Secretary Bob McDonald is visiting VA facilities talking to veterans, employees and administrators about their concerns and suggestions for improving service.

Secretary: VA Needs Whistleblowers

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  Secret patient waiting lists, delayed medical care, retaliation against whistleblowers  are all reasons why trust in the VA hit an all-time low this spring especially on Capitol Hill. The new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert “Bob” McDonald is trying to restore that trust. He’s started by visiting as many VA facilities as possible during his first 90 days in office. http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wusf/audio/2014/10/10-3_ONAIR_OTB-VCH_VA_Sec_Bob.mp3 McDonald toured several Florida VA facilities this week and he invited U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee of Veterans Affairs, to come along. ”Bob McDonald gets it,” Miller said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Polytrauma Center. “He came on board at a time when the VA was going through probably the worst crisis that they ever had in the history of its time in the federal government. I would say that he is a hands-on person.” McDonald says the formality of his position can get in the way of serving veterans. So, he insists that everyone call him “Bob” not “Secretary.” He has publicly shared his cell phone number  and takes calls from veterans at all times of day. As the retired CEO of Procter and Gamble, McDonald  is all about improving customer service now and better forecasting veterans’ needs. He blames a huge influx of veterans seeking benefits and care for many of the VA problems especially when employee evaluations were linked to how fast veterans got scheduled and seen by a doctor. Bottom line, some veterans waited too long to see a doctor while others went without any care. McDonald said he is waiting on the results of 93 active Inspector General Investigations. “Some of those investigations are going to result in the Department of Justice being involved, some of them will result in the FBI being involved, and some of them could well result in criminal charges being brought,” McDonald said. A West Point graduate and veteran Army Airborne Ranger, McDonald said he has no tolerance for employees who don’t embrace a core value of the VA – the veterans come first. But he is equally ready to defend any VA employee who exposes a problem. “I celebrate whistleblowers. I want every employee to be a whistleblower,” McDonald said. “I can’t improve, we can’t improve unless every employee is a whistleblower.” To improve access to medical care, McDonald extended clinic hours, used mobile clinics, and had people work overtime.. “I’ve done some research and this may surprise you, but we don’t see the full effect of a war in terms of impact on Veterans Affairs until 40 years after the war,” McDonald said. And he wants the VA to be ready when that influx of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans hits in 2054.

Russ Barnes, a retired Air Force colonel, designed the USF Veterans Employment Project.

Launching Careers, Finding Jobs for Vets

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Despite the improving economy, finding a job or establishing a career remains a challenge for the estimated one million or more military service members expected to transition to civilian life in the next few years. http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wusf/audio/2014/09/9-5_OnAIR_OTB_student_vet_employment_project_0.mp3 So, the University of South Florida Office of Veteran Services created the Veterans Employment Project, thanks to a grant from the JP Morgan & Chase Company, to prepare USF student veterans for the competitive civilian market. Russ Barnes, a retired Air Force colonel with 27 years of service, designed the program. More than 30 student veterans applied, but the sessions need to be smaller to provide one-on-one help. So, he prioritized the applicants with a survey. Those who scored 10 out of 10 as “urgent” that they find a job in the next three months were accepted first. “We want to solve that right now,” Barnes said. “They’re urgent. We want to get them right now.” The employment project he created is not the typical workshop. Barnes turns things upside down. Instead of starting with resume writing, he ends with it. He begins by focusing the veterans on their passion, their ideal career or job. Then, he guides them working backward, identifying their industry of interest, researching companies, and then honing their resume to fit the job description. By the end of day one, Barnes had the six student veterans in his August session signed up on Linked In. They had to join a professional group in their area of interest, researched companies and made personal connections with people working in their desired profession. Joshua Gleaton spent more than four years in the Army as a forward observer. The former sergeant is completing a degree in criminology as he works with students at the USF Office of Veteran Services. “These guys are veterans, they have military experience, there’s still an enormous amount of competition in the work field,” Gleaton said. His goal is to have a career as a state game warden or work in criminal forensics for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Gleaton said the mock interview process helped him the most. “One question that caught me off guard is ‘What is my biggest weakness?’ because you don’t want to sound like you have a weakness,” Gleaton said. “You try to turn that into that into a positive answer. “ To prepare the student veterans for interviews, Barnes brought in Crista Shaw, a disability and employment specialist and author of Passport to Education.” After introducing herself on day four, Shaw, who volunteered to come, started with a couple of questions the veterans may encounter during a job interview. “Has anybody here been fired from a job, two, three, my hand is up too,” Shaw said, putting them at ease. “I’ve been fired from a job. Let me tell you how to answer this question. “ Shaw did role playing with Franklin Castillo, a Marine going for his MBA. She worked with him on how to shorten his answer and bring the question back around to the present and positives he learned from being dismissed. “If you leave with one thing today, I would tell you wherever you go you’re in an interview and if you can just be yourself, relax and be yourself,” Shaw advised. Castillo is one of the student veterans who marked in his survey that it is urgent he find a job in the next three months. He wants to work for a commercial bank in anti-money laundering and fighting fraud. “I came here with a preconceived notion, now as we’ve gone through the week, I’m so desirous to put this to work,” Castillo said. Barnes said the employment workshop works both ways. Helping veterans adjust to the civilian job market and assisting employers by dispelling common myths about military veterans. “Some of the misconceptions: in the military they always tell you what to do. They tell you what to eat, where to go what to do. They tell you when to do it, they tell you how to do it. And then you just do it,” Barnes said. “Many business owners say ‘I can’t have someone like that in my company, I need somebody who will be creative and work on their own.’ That is definitely a misconception.” The workshop ended on the fifth day with mock interviews for the veterans. However,  Barnes said there’s a sixth module – the actual interview and job placement. He plans to stay in touch with all the student veterans until they land their ideal position. In the interim, a third USF veterans’ employment 5-day session is scheduled to start Sept. 15, 2014.  

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The Ruoco Family, Kim, John and their two sons, Billy and Joey.

Support for Military Suicide Survivors

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kim_ruoco_TAPS http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wusf/audio/2014/10/10-10_ONAIR_OTB-VCH_Military_Suicide_Survivors.mp3 The 6th annual National Military Suicide Survivors Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors organized by TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, hosted 500 adults and 170 children looking for help. They participated in workshops, art therapy, and outdoor activities learning skills to cope with the suicide of a loved one who served in the military. The U.S. military passed a tragic milestone in 2012:  more active-duty service members died by suicide, than in combat. And while military families grieve over a loved one killed in combat, families who have a loved one return from the battlefield only to die by suicide have to deal with even more complex feelings like anger and guilt. And there was very little help or support for family survivors of military suicide when it hit Kim Ruoco’s family in February 2005. After more than a decade of service, her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. John Ruoco, died by suicide. It turned Kim into an advocate. “One of reasons I really started talking about my husband’s death was a fear that the way he died would wipe out the way he lived,” she said. “He had worked so hard to get to be who he was and that was part of the reason why he didn’t get help because he feared losing that.” It is important to her that people know her husband: a man eager to serve his country who joined the Marine Corps right out of college. He wanted to be in the infantry but the Corps convinced him to train as a helicopter pilot because of his high test scores. He played rugby, loved football and Halloween was his favorite holiday. Kim said John had his first major depression after losing several Marines in training accidents in the 1990s when they were stationed in North Carolina. But back then, she said, he didn’t let people know for fear it would hurt his career as a Marine helicopter pilot. “His identity as a pilot was everything,” she said. They did confide in one of his trusted leaders who told them “it happens to everybody … take a break and push through it.” And Major Ruoco 'pushed through it,' successfully, until Super Bowl Sunday night in 2005. Kim was in Massachusetts with their two sons and John was in California with his Marine unit. When they talked on the phone, she knew he was having trouble, he hadn’t watched the game, wasn’t eating or sleeping. He promised to get help. She knew asking for help would be harder for him than going to war. So that night, she boarded a plane to be with him when he went to the base clinic the next day. “By the time I got there he had already killed himself. He had killed himself a few hours after he’d hung up the phone,” Kim said. “I learned really quickly that there’s a lot of stigma around suicide and that people don’t have really good answers about how to recover and how to have a healthy grief process after suicide.” Her biggest concern was what do I tell their sons, Joey, 10, and Billy, 8. “At the time, I thought, how do you tell two little kids that their dad went to a combat zone and went to war, made it back safely, and then took his own life?” Kim said. A trauma specialist advised her to tell her boys their father died in an accident. So that’s what she did, not trusting her own instincts at that time. She said not trusting yourself is a common experience of many suicide survivors. But two weeks later, she found out that her son was blaming himself for his dad’s “accident.” “He said mom I think I killed Dad. I said what do you mean honey?” Kim said. “He said, ‘When Dad was home for Christmas we were eating nachos and I said, ‘Can we salt the nachos Dad?’ And he said, ‘No because too much salt is not good for your heart.’ And when Dad wasn’t looking, I salted them. So, he must have had a heart attack and that’s why he had an accident.” At that moment, Kim said, she and her sons started over. She told them that their father was really sick, that he had war injuries and his brain wasn’t working the way it should and he killed himself. TAPS_LOGOKim found a brochure for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, TAPS, a non-profit organization that offers support to all grieving the death of a loved one serving in the Armed Forces. It is a peer-based support group for adults and provides military mentors for children. Nine years ago, TAPS did not have a specific program for survivors of military suicide. So, Kim had to build her own support group. But, she said TAPS did provide military mentors for her boys. Her older son, Joey, was paired with an Airman who had a sense of humor and personality similar to her husband. A Marine pilot, who flew 70 combat missions with her husband in Iraq, mentored her younger son, Billy, and has kept in touch even as both sons have gone off to college. Kim was invited to help TAPS create a support program for military suicide survivors. She’s now manager for Suicide Outreach and Education programs at TAPS. “We need to start talking about mental illness,” Kim said. “Ninety percent of these guys are suffering from severe mental illness that they’ve battled for years and it’s treatable.” She said TAPS is working with the Department of Defense, the VA and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, SAMHSA, to develop a tool kit to share with local health providers, emergency room physicians and primary doctors on how to recognize and deal with military members and veterans at risk of suicide. For more information go to www.taps.org . If you or a loved one are in crisis, Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Dr. Steven Scott (left) shows off the Haley Trauma Center’s treadmill pool to former patient Cory Remsburg (center) and his dad, Craig Remsburg.

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg Overcomes

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Army Ranger Cory Remsburg returns each year to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to show the staff his progress. He was severely injured in 2009 and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center. Remsburg was on his tenth deployment when he was injured by an IED in Afghanistan. His teammates found him face down in a water-filled canal with shrapnel in his brain. He was in a coma when he arrived at the Haley. More than 800 patients have come through the polytrauma system according to Haley Chief of Staff Dr. Edward Cutolo, but he remembers Remsburg. “He’s not a hard one to forget. He was very ill when he came here, very ill,” Cutolo said. And Remsburg has not forgotten them, the therapists, nurses and doctors. http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wusf/audio/2014/09/9-19_ONAIR-OTB-VCH_Cory_Remsburg_0_0.mp3 He returned this year with one goal in mind, to walk, unassisted to Dr. Steven Scott, director of the Haley Polytrauma Center. Trailed closely by his stepmother, Annie Remsburg, Cory Remsburg successfully navigated about a 10-foot stretch, unaided, and was greeted with a handshake from Dr. Scott and applause from onlookers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA2A8NGdU-k “One of the things that’s so interesting about Cory’s story is he was told by so many, so many people said he couldn’t do things. ‘You’re not going to walk, you’re not going to do this. You know what I mean,’” Scott said. “So, Cory always said, ‘Yes, I’m going to, yes I can.’” Cory Remsburg responds slowly, “Being a Ranger, I had the mental part down. It’s the physical part I’m learning to overcome.” His speech is labored because he had to learn to speak all over again. That’s just one of many things he’s had to overcome: dozens of surgeries, blindness in his right eye, a partially paralyzed left side. He was in a coma more than three months. The treatments and people at Haley brought him back. Craig Remsburg, credits a combination of ‘the man above’, Haley’s Emerging Consciousness Program, family and familiarity for bringing his son back. “We knew that he loved vanilla extract, so we would burn that aroma. We would play Scrubs, he loved Scrubs. So, we had that playing always on a reel,” Craig Remsburg said. There was no great awakening like in a movie. Instead, it was gradual and took a lot of hard work every day for two years. As soon as Cory could eat solid food, Dr. Scott would sneak him two Boston Cream doughnuts each morning as incentive.  And even though Cory now lives in Arizona – Dr. Scott is still motivating his prized patient. He asked Cory for his goals which are to walk independently for a sustainable distance and then run. “That’s what I hoped you would say. I’ll give you a third,” Dr. Scott said. “Run up hill. Alright? The reason why you run uphill is because the view is better.” At that suggestion, Cory smiled, held up his large cup of coffee as a toast affirming his new goals and said, “He knows me.” You can listen to the story which is part of he WUSF Veterans Coming Home project on WUSF 89.7 FM.

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A Capitol Fourth

A Capital Fourth

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America's favorite Independence Day celebration will feature unrivaled performances from some of the country's best-known musical artists, topped off by the greatest display of fireworks anywhere in the nation.    

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Coming Back with Wes Moore

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Three-part limited series about challenges facing Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans and some of the organizations working to help them.

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Eric Alva

Coming Home San Antonio: Eric Alva

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Staff Sergeant Eric Alva served in the Marine Corps for 13 years. In March of 2003, he stepped on a land mine and lost his right leg, making him the first Marine injured in the Iraq war. Despite dealing with PTSD and losing his leg, Eric continues being an active person, living life and looking forward to the future. Video courtesy of KLRN. Watch and listen to more public media stories about veterans.

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Eugene Burks, Craft in America: SERVICE

Craft in America: SERVICE

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Watch a preview of Craft in America: SERVICE, premiering on PBS November 2, 2014 (*check local listings). SERVICE: exploring creativity, healing and our nation’s soldiers and veterans. Featuring ceramic artist Ehren Tool, potter Judas Recendez, Peter Voulkos and other G.I. Bill artists, Pam DeLuco and the Paper Doll Project, and Eugene Burks Jr, saddler at the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon.

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Ice Warriors

ICE WARRIORS: USA SLED HOCKEY

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Coming in Nov 2014: Fighting for Gold at the Games

Tough competition. Spiritual uplift. Sled hockey: a game of force, speed, and strategy, played by top athletes with sticks, sharp sled runners, and the serrated ice picks used to propel their sleds. Last winter, ICE WARRIORS: USA SLED HOCKEY introduced viewers to the seventeen players of the U.S. sled hockey team with a behind-the-scenes look at the team's training and preparations. Now watch Team USA’s record-breaking performance at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in a new, expanded ICE WARRIORS documentary, premiering November 2014 on PBS. (03:17)

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Garcia Doctors

Latino Americans part 3 – War and Peace

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Episode 3 of Latino Americans traces the World War II years and those that follow, as Latino Americans serve their new country by the hundreds of thousands — yet still face discrimination and a fight for civil rights in the United States.      

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MJ Hegar, Courtesy of MAKERS

MAKERS: Women in War

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Track American women's increasing participation in war — from Vietnam to the present — as nurses, soldiers, journalists, diplomats and spies. Among those featured are Linda Bray, the first woman to lead troops into battle, and Valerie Plame Wilson, whose career was sabotaged after she was "outed" as a high-level spy. Viewers hear from war correspondents Molly Moore, Clarissa Ward and Christiane Amanpour about life on the battlefield. The film shares the stories of military leaders who have broken through gender barriers, like General Angela Salinas, at her retirement the highest ranking woman serving in the USMC, and Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. Navy.

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medal quest

Medal Quest

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ICE WARRIORS follows the U.S sled hockey team on their road to the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. The team includes military veterans wounded in action.      

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NAVY SEALS – THEIR UNTOLD STORY  Credit: Courtesy of www.SEALSWCC.com

Navy SEALs – Their Untold Story

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Premiering on Veterans Day, this program recounts the ticking-clock missions of the "Commandos of the Deep" through firsthand accounts - including that of a D-Day demolition team member — and through never-before-seen footage, home movies and personal mementoes. Admirals, master chiefs, clandestine operators, demolitioneers and snipers reveal how US Navy SEALs morphed into the world's most admired commandos.

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U.S. soldiers prepare to exit their watercraft on D-Day.

NOVA: D-Day’s Sunken Secrets

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Join NOVA as dive teams, submersibles, and robots explore a massive underwater WWII archeological site.    

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The Invisible War

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The Invisible War exposes one of the United States's most shameful and best-kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.      

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Other Than Honorable Discharges

NPR – Veterans and Other-Than-Honorable Discharges

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NPR Special Series on Veterans in no man's land of benefits and resource after an "other-than-honorable-discharge."

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NPR America's Women Warriors

NPR Series – America’s Women Warriors

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A six-part NPR series on women in the military; from MST to combat to transitioning home. This series specifically focuses on the unique challenges women face in the military.

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NPR Series – Home Front: Soldiers Learn to Live After War

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Weekend Edition is spending a year with the men of the National Guard's 182nd Infantry Regiment as they make the transition from soldiers to civilians.

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US Paralympic sled hockey team celebrating.

NPR-From War in The Desert To ‘Murder Ball On Ice’

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An NPR broadcast highlighting the US paralympic sled hockey team and the disabled veterans that compete on it.

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portraits by David Gilkey at NPR

What Do Homeless Vets look like?

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Homeless veterans, though, may not see themselves as "homeless veterans" at all. If you passed one on the street, you might not even know it. Read 9 conversations from a pop-up photo studio in San Diego by Claire O’Neill and portraits by David Gilkey at NPR.

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Bad Voodoo's War

FRONTLINE – Bad Voodoo’s War

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FRONTLINE goes to war with a platoon of National Guard soldiers to see the war through their eyes, filmed with their own video cameras.    

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Brain Wars

FRONTLINE – Brain Wars

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How the Military is Failing Its Wounded - an ongoing investigation into soldiers' traumatic brain injuries. (Partnership with NPR and ProPublica)

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Educating Sergeant Pantske

FRONTLINE – Educating Sergeant Pantske

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For-profit colleges promise veterans a high quality degree -- but do they deliver?    

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FRONTLINE Losing Iraq

FRONTLINE – Losing Iraq

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FRONTLINE examines the unfolding chaos in Iraq: What went wrong? How did we get here? And what happens now?

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The Soldier's Heart

FRONTLINE – The Soldier’s Heart

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The military teaches soldiers how to fight, hot to kill, how to survive. But who teaches them how to live with themselves? Examining an under-reported story of the Iraq war: the psychological cost on those who fight it.

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The Wounded Platoon

FRONTLINE – The Wounded Platoon

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Third Platoon, Charlie Company. What happened to them in Iraq, and what happened when they came home…        

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Independent Documentary

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Coming Home: Stories of Veterans Returning from War

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More than two million veterans have come home so far from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For returning veterans, reintegrating into society can be a challenge. How do you find your place, when you’ve changed and the people you love don’t recognize you? When that old life is gone and you have to start a new one from scratch. In this hour State of the Re:Union explores reintegration and asks the question: how do you come back home from war?    

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Nathan talks with Afghani man

Hell and Back Again

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What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home — injured physically and psychologically — and build a life anew? U.S. Marine Sergeant Nathan Harris, 25, leads his unit to fight a ghostlike enemy in Afghanistan. Wounded in battle, Harris returns to North Carolina and his devoted wife to fight pain, addiction, and the terrifying normalcy of life at home.

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Vietnam War Stories

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A documentary series in which Wisconsin's men and women in uniform share personal accounts of courage and sacrifice from America's historic battles.

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where soldiers come from

Where Soldiers Come From

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A four-year journey that takes teenagers from rural northern Michigan to the battlefields of Afghanistan and back, WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM follows five high school friends who join the National Guard to pay for college. The film is an intimate look at the young men who fight America's wars.

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PBS

2014 USA Paralympic Sled Hockey Team

Medal Quest – Ice Warriors: USA

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ICE WARRIORS: USA Sled Hockey tracks the US Sled Hockey team as its athletes prepare for the competition they'll face in Sochi, Russia, this March. Sled hockey, also known as "murderball on blades," is played as aggressively as professional hockey ? but the players are strapped into armored sleds and they battle, at eye level, with their bodies, their sticks, their sharp sled blades, and the serrated ice picks used to propel their sleds. It's a game of force, speed and strategy. The stories of this year's players are riveting, from a 15-year-old making his team debut, to four athletes who are "wounded warriors," injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and proud to continue representing the US through Paralympic sports.

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Army Captain Drew Pham and his wife, Molly Pearl

StoryCorps – Army Captain Drew Pham

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Army Captain Drew Pham was 24 years old when he completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan in October 2011. Since returning, Drew has had a hard time making sense of what he saw at war and adjusting to life at home. At StoryCorps, he spoke with his wife, Molly Pearl, about that transition and some of his most difficult combat memories.

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Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Jon Meadows and his wife, Melissa

StoryCorps – Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Jon Meadows

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Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Jon Meadows has served two tours of duty, first to Iraq in 2006, then to Afghanistan in 2012. Over the course of his service, he suffered multiple head injuries–which he didn’t report because he wanted to keep on serving. Then, in an examination during his last tour, doctors found polyps in Jon’s throat. He was sent to a hospital in the States–and that’s when the brain damage was discovered. Jon and his wife, Melissa, came to the White House for a day StoryCorps spent recording with Joining Forces–the national effort to support service members and their families, which is spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. In Washington, Jon told his wife about his life now, and remembered a friend and fallen soldier who served with him in Iraq.

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Justin Cliburn

StoryCorps – Justin Cliburn

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Specialist Justin Cliburn deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the Oklahoma Army National Guard. His job was to train the Iraqi police in Baghdad. When he sat down for StoryCorps with his wife, Deanne, he told her about his friendship with a young Iraqi boy named Ali.

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Marine Corporal Anthony Villarreal and his wife, Jessica

StoryCorps – Marine Corporal Anthony Villarreal

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In June 2008, Marine Corporal Anthony Villarreal was driving back from a mission in Afghanistan when his truck hit a roadside bomb. Anthony suffered third-degree burns over most of his body. His right arm and the fingers on his left hand had to be amputated. Anthony was 22 at the time, and newlywed to Jessica who was just 21. When the couple sat down for StoryCorps, Anthony remembered the moments just after the explosion.

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Paul Wayman and Nathanael Roberti

StoryCorps – Nathanael Roberti

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Marine Corporal Paul Wayman (L) talks with his friend Nathanael Roberti, (R) a former Navy Seal, about their trouble readjusting to civilian life after their combat deployments.

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Mark and Luke Radlinski

StoryCorps – Navy Lieutenant Mark Radlinski

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Navy Lieutenant Mark Radlinski speaks with his brother, Lieutenant Luke Radlinski, about Mark's deployment to Iraq and his homecoming.

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Tech Sgt. MaCherie Dunbar (R) and her girlfriend, Barb Maglaqui (L)

StoryCorps – Tech Sgt. MaCherie Dunbar

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Tech Sgt. MaCherie Dunbar (R) was deployed twice to Iraq in 2007-2008. At StoryCorps, MaCherie told her girlfriend, Barb Maglaqui (L), about one of the hardest things she had to do while overseas. MaCherie is an Air Force reservist and lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. She is hoping to retire from the Air Force this year because of PTSD.

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Elizabeth Olson

StoryCorps – Veterans Crisis Line

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Elizabeth Olson and her colleagues at the Veterans Crisis Line talk about helping callers through their darkest hours.

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