Veterans

WWII veteran Paul Tell shows a couple of volunteers with Greater St. Louis Honor Flight a book of photographs he took as a young soldier in Europe, after a special film screening hosted by the organization.
Karl Lund | Greater St. Louis Honor Flight

The Greater St. Louis Honor Flight closed out its year of veteran visits to the war memorials in Washington, D.C., by taking them on one more special trip – to a Chesterfield movie theater.

Mustard Seed Theatre

When you think of World War I heroes, you likely picture generals and fighter pilots. But a playwright who penned Mustard Seed Theatre’s upcoming production wanted to salute a group of men in the trenches.

Amanda Honigfort

During World War II, thousands of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers took to the skies daily. The planes were a crucial part of campaigns, from the bombing of Dresden to D-Day, and were flown by the likes of Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Lt. Col. Basil Hackleman.

Hackleman, who now lives in Springfield, Mo., was the original pilot of the Nine-o-Nine, a celebrated B-17 that is said to have never lost a crew member or abort a mission because of mechanical failure. The plane was scrapped after the war.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

People often call Todd Nicely a hero, but the 30-year-old Marine combat veteran would prefer that they didn’t.

Nicely, who lost his arms and legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan four years ago, says the heroes of the 13-year war on terror are the 6,841 U.S. service members who have died while serving their country since Sept. 11.

“If they want to call me an inspiration because of the things I have to do on a daily basis, fine. I’ll take that,’’ says Nicely. “But hero? No. I have friends who are heroes. The guys who aren’t coming home -- those are the heroes.”

Wayne Pratt / St. Louis Public Radio

Elmer Boehm's life is a story about war, survival, love and life-saving luck.

The World War II veteran is headed to Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day as part of the final Greater St. Louis Honor Flight of 2014.

“I just hope I can … I’m strong enough to make it. I’ll be 92 in January, but I’m still pumping around,” said Boehm during a recent interview at his home in Town and Country.

“It’s kind of an honor to go. It will be nice to see all these memorials that they put up for the various servicemen that have done a lot for their country.”

Parade grand marshalls Velma Jesse, Army WAC, Alice Anderson, Navy WAVES, and Major General Susan Davidson, commander of SDDC at Scott Air Force Base.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis held its annual Veterans Day Observance downtown Saturday. For the first time in 31 years, all of the parade marshals were women.

The celebration began on a solemn note with a formal ceremony in front of the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum. Bells rang and bugle taps played in memory of POWs and soldiers who went missing in action.

August Jennewein

“When you go to a networking interview and a hiring manager asks you what you want to do, ‘What do you need done?’ is not a good answer,” Jim Craig explains.  But “that’s the military mentality,” he says from experience.

Craig is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and is currently an associate teaching professor and chair of the Department of Military and Veterans Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

For the typical college freshman, heading for campus means a welcome chance to leave behind all those pesky rules that had to be followed at home and to enter a new environment of freedom and choice.

For the military veteran trying to re-enter civilian society and signing up for college classes, that lack of structure may be far less attractive and more than a little intimidating.

Ryan Barrett, who is studying for his doctorate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, went through that tough transition when he left the Air Force after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vietnam veteran, Chester Chunn, stands to speak at a veteran's town hall meeting in downtown St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Exceptionally long wait times, missing records and doctors who failed to diagnose serious conditions were among the complaints aired at a veteran’s town hall meeting in St. Louis Friday.

Veterans Affairs officials in St. Louis have been required to hold two forums following federal investigations of hospitals and the mishandling of veteran’s benefit claims. While providing a public venue for people to speak about their experiences with the system, representatives were also on hand to answer individual questions about benefits and vocational rehabilitation.

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

The VA St. Louis Health Care System hosted a veterans’ resource fair Saturday in downtown St. Louis. Several hundred people attended the event, which expanded on the St. Louis VA’s fall Homeless Veterans Stand Down event to provide employment, education, health and legal services in addition to resources to help veterans find housing.                    

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

If the latest counts are accurate, the population of homeless veterans in the City of St. Louis is now zero. The city gave 51 veterans the keys to their own apartments Wednesday, providing housing for the last group of known homeless vets in the city.

At an event announcing Operation Reveille, St. Louis Department of Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff said homeless veterans have been a focus for his office.

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio

The American Legion is looking for St. Louis-area veterans who need help getting medical services from the VA Health Care System.

The Legion has sent members from its “System Worth Saving Task Force” in Washington, D.C., to relay concerns directly from St. Louis-area veterans.

The three-person task force is meeting with the director of the local VA system today to bring up problems raised by veterans at a town hall-style meeting that it hosted Monday night, said Verna Jones, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Division in Washington.

Eric Shinseki
Veterans Affairs photo | Wikipedia

Too often governmental scandals become couched in blaming an administrator for the problem. Critics seldom look at a bureaucratic organization for its failings or how bureaus channel the behavior of their employees. One element that should be examined is how success is judged.

In the case of the Veterans Administration and Gen. Eric Shinseki, we see staff at VA hospitals responding to how they would be evaluated. Such evaluations affect compensation and promotion and hence behavior. Employees also tend to go along to get along.

Shinseki sowed the seeds of his own demise.

Blunt – Flickr/Gage Skidmore; McCaskill – Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is releasing the latest results of a survey of Missouri military veterans who have received care at Veterans Administration’s facilities around the state, including Cochran and Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.

While not disclosing any details, McCaskill told reporters Tuesday that “every year we’ve done it, the VA has done a little better. I’m particularly pleased this year because we’ve had even more responses this year than we had last year.”

Missouri’s U.S. Senators are seeking answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs  about reports of lax mental health services in St. Louis’s VA hospital system.

The inquiry stems from allegations by the system’s former Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Jose Mathews, regarding an “artificial backlog” of patient care created by staff who treat veterans for only a fraction of the workday.

According to the Associated Press, Mathews claims in a federal whistleblower complaint filed last year that he was demoted after his efforts to make employees work harder and more efficiently.

(Shula Neuman/St. Louis Public Radio)

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today announced criminal charges against a St. Charles man accused of falsely collecting donations for the Wounded Warriors Project, a national nonprofit organization that assists wounded American veterans. 

(Courtesy AnthemUSA)

Plans are coming together for Oasis Residential@Emerson, a new supportive living community in St. Louis for veterans and other individuals with mental health issues, said business partners Sherman Strong and Kendall Brune.

Robert Peterson / St. Louis Public Radio

Officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were in St. Louis today in an effort to get homeless veterans off the street and into housing immediately.

The outreach to veterans was part of the required winter count of homeless people in the city. Officials with the VA went out with teams, conducting the count to be able to offer immediate help to chronically homeless veterans. It was part of the Obama administration's efforts to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon

Wanda Pierson was 500 miles from home on a wintry December morning waiting to visit her son who was undergoing treatment in the spinal cord injury unit at the Jefferson Barracks VA Medical Center.

(Courtesy Marleah Leslie & Associates)

In "Beyond Glory," actor and playwright Stephen Lang takes on the roles of eight men awarded the Medal of Honor, the country's highest military honor. The one-man play will be performed in St. Louis on Saturday, November 16 at Washington University's Edison Theatre.

Lang, whose credits include "Avatar," "Conan the Barbarian" and the Broadway production of "The Speed of Darkness," adapted the play from a book by the same name written by Larry Smith in 2003.

Joseph Leahy

Salutes fired in downtown St. Louis this morning at the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in honor of the sacrifices made by U.S. armed service members for their country. Parades, ceremonies and speeches in the St. Louis area over the three-day weekend marked the 95th anniversary of the end of WWI, known previously as Armistice Day.

(Courtesy Six String Heroes)

For veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life, playing music can provide a means of focus and escape. That's the founding idea of Six String Heroes, a non-profit organization based at Jefferson Barracks. The organization connects St. Louis area veterans with guitar lessons as a means of music therapy.

After six lessons, veterans can earn a free guitar. So far, more than 170 guitars have been awarded.

Darcella Craven
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Air Force veteran Lachelle Stevenson, 40, of Belleville is researching what it would take to open an after-school tutoring center.

“It’s a personal goal to own my own business,” said Stevenson who attended a workshop last week hosted by the St. Louis office of the Small Business Administration to learn about the nuts and bolts of business start-ups.

(By Minesweeper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Updated after today’s show.

Backlogs in disability claims.  Over-prescription of opiate narcotics. Exposure to blood-borne pathogens. Loose spending habits. In the last few years, the VA health care system has received a lot of negative media attention.

But according to Lynn Welling, that doesn’t mean veterans are receiving poor quality care. He is the chief of staff for the St. Louis VA Health Care System and a former Navy doctor.

(Bernt Rostad)

On day two of the government shutdown, it continues to cause headaches, including for a group of Missouri and Kansas veterans that flew to Washington. 

The nonprofit Heartland Honor Flight organized the trip and the closed National World War II Memorial was the first stop Wednesday. The group was met by many Missouri and Kansas lawmakers, who helped them get inside the memorial where barriers had been set up. 

(Flickr/807MDSC)

A 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran from St. Louis County received a Purple Heart medal more than 44 years after he was wounded overseas.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's office says it helped secure the award for Walter Sitzwohl after his wife contacted the senator's office this summer. McCaskill is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sitzwohl was first assigned to the A Company, 158th Assault Helicopter Battalion and deployed to Vietnam with that unit. He later transferred to D Company, 101st AHB in March 1969, based out of Phu Bai.

Jerry Tovo (Courtesy Missouri History Museum)

 During the Vietnam War, Jerry Tovo was a drill sergeant, training soldiers to go to war. After he left the military, Tovo became a professional photographer, specializing in advertising. But in 2011, he took his photography in a less commercial direction--photographing homeless veterans across the country.

Tovo's motivation for the project originated with an understanding of the problems that can lead to homelessness  among veterans.

(via Flickr/U.S. Army Garrison, Miami)

At first glance, veterans of the post 9/11 wars and St. Louis youth in high crime neighborhoods don't have much in common. But two things unite them: both are considered at-risk and both can have a tough time finding jobs.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Military veterans from across the nation are in St. Louis this weekend to receive training and take part in community improvement efforts.

The more than 80 veterans were joined by hundreds of community volunteers on Saturday to spruce up the Boys and Girls Club in north St. Louis City, building a picnic area, installing a new track and putting a fresh coat of paint on community areas. 

During the United States’ 200-plus years, military veterans have at times been honored and at other times forgotten.

After World War I, perceived mistreatment led veterans to camp out in Washington. After World War II, Congress -- and then-President Harry S Truman, a World War I vet -- crafted the GI Bill and other measures to help veterans readjust to civilian life.

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