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Retired Pvt. Leslie P. Cruise, 95, remembers June 6, 1944, clearly. Standing at the airplane's edge, preparing to jump onto the enemy lines of Normandy on D-Day, fear didn't occur to him.

"It was very moving and exciting," Cruise tells NPR's Noel King. "We fly over the channel; you can look out the window and see the silhouettes of the ships. We know what's going to happen now. We've talked about it, but look at all those ships down there, my gosh."

Army Veteran Peter Antioho with his wife, Amy and son, Mark in their Berlin home. Antioho was exposed to black smoke from an open burn pit in Afghanistan. He's fighting for federal disability benefits.
Melanie Stengel / C-HIT.org

Every day for 10 months in 2012, Peter Antioho walked through dense, black smoke from an open burn pit on his Army base in Afghanistan. Human and medical waste, plastic water bottles, ammunition and chemicals were among the materials burned with diesel fuel 24 hours a day.

Chion Wolf / WNPR/Connecticut Public Radio

Between War & Here is a one-of-a-kind collaboration, which serves not only as a reminder of the U.S.' ongoing involvement in war, but also as a lens into the complexities of U.S. veterans' experiences.

This hour, we sit down with one of the creative forces behind the show and hear from one of its narrators: longtime foreign correspondent Anne Garrels.

Plus, we learn about an event at the Mystic Seaport Museum, which spotlights women in the maritime industry. 

United Kingdom Government / Wikimedia Commons

This weekend was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. World leaders convened in Paris and listened to French president Emmanuel Macron warn against reviving the "old demons" of nationalism that led to our first world war. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR/Connecticut Public Radio

This month marks 10 years since Connecticut first granted marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. This hour we talk about the work that led up to a historic ruling from the state Supreme Court and we learn how LGBTQ rights have advanced in recent years. Were you one of the couples that finally got to tie the knot in 2008?

In a wide-ranging interview with NPR, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said his department is on the mend after a tumultuous 2018.

"I do think it is better, because the turmoil of the first half of this year is behind us, the waters are calmer. We're not where we need to be, but we're heading in that direction," he said.

Early in Donald Trump's presidency, the VA was considered an island of stability in an unpredictable administration.

The Trump administration is taking aim at a law designed to protect military service members from getting cheated by shady lending practices.

NPR has obtained documents that show the White House is proposing changes that critics say would leave service members vulnerable to getting ripped off when they buy cars. Separately, the administration is taking broader steps to roll back enforcement of the Military Lending Act.

Technical Sergeant John L. Houghton, Jr., United States Air Force / Wikimedia Commons

In March 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq--in what turned out to be a baseless search for hidden “weapons of mass destruction.” Fifteen years later, we are still dealing with the deadly fallout of the decision to go to war.

The guests of honor during Saturday's monument dedication ceremony received Congressional Gold Medals. The memorial honoring the Borinqueneers is located on a cul-de-sac on the corner of Washington St. and Borinqueneers Way in New Britain.
Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

A monument has been built in New Britain to commemorate the service of a segregated United States Army unit made up of volunteers from the island of Puerto Rico -- the Borinqueneers. On Saturday, dignitaries from Connecticut and Puerto Rico came together to honor these veterans.

Updated at 9:05 a.m. ET

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Trump's embattled nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, has withdrawn from consideration for the post amid allegations he had fostered a hostile work environment and behaved improperly while serving as the top doctor leading the White House medical unit.

The White House

A confirmation hearing scheduled Wednesday for President Trump’s Veterans’ Affairs Secretary nomination has been postponed.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Trump's pick to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, has been accused of creating a hostile work environment, drinking while on duty and improperly prescribing drugs to staff during his time as White House doctor to two administrations, according to Montana Sen. Jon Tester.

New Vermont Distillery Run By Veterans For Veterans

Apr 12, 2018
Courtesey of Danger Close Craft Distilling

It’s getting easier and easier to find top-notch, handcrafted whiskey, bourbon, vodka, and other spirits made right here in the United States. With more than 1,500 craft distillers across the country, the American spirits movement is on the rise, and in Vermont the industry is booming.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

In light of mismanaged abuse allegations involving two former staffers, U.S. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty announced Monday she will not seek re-election in November.

This hour, we discuss the significance of Esty's decision -- including what it means for Connecticut's Fifth Congressional District race this year.

Plus: With former VA Secretary David Shulkin out, what lies head for U.S. Veterans Affairs? Is the federal agency on track to become privatized? We find out.

And finally: We sit down with a local Army veteran who recently received a discharge upgrade. Could his story help other Connecticut veterans with less than honorable discharges? 

Connecticut Army Veteran Gets Discharge Upgrade

Apr 3, 2018
C-HIT.org

Connecticut veterans’ leader and decorated soldier Stephen Kennedy has won his eight-year battle to have his Army discharge status upgraded to honorable.

Fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin tells NPR's Morning Edition that political forces in the Trump administration want to privatize the VA — and that he was standing in the way.

"There are many political appointees in the VA that believe that we are moving in the wrong direction or weren't moving fast enough toward privatizing the VA," he said. "I think that it's essential for national security and for the country that we honor our commitment by having a strong VA. I was not against reforming VA, but I was against privatization."

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

President Trump intends to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin with the White House physician, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the president announced on Twitter on Wednesday.

"I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin's service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!" Trump wrote.

Gerard Chappell working with his dog, Pete, teaching him how to fetch things for a future disabled veteran.
David DesRoches / WNPR

Inside Enfield Correctional Institution there are all the expected security measures: Huge steel doors. Armed guards. Barbed-wire fences. Locked gates. 

Connecticut VA Healthcare System

Veterans’ mental health and housing improved when they accessed free legal services in a Veterans Affairs facility, according to a study of veterans in Connecticut and New York City.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is proposing legislation that would stop the president from firing the special counsel investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Tony Bacewicz / C-HIT

Arnold Giammarco, the Army and National Guard veteran deported to Italy nearly five years ago, is back home in Connecticut with his wife and daughter.

Two top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Manchester have been removed pending a review of conditions described in a Boston Globe report. Several doctors at the Manchester VA complained in the report of unsanitary operating rooms and alleged substandard care.

A growing number of homeless veterans are women. But there are few places that specialize in helping them get back on their feet.

A 101-year-old man has set a world record for oldest skydiver, according to the British company Skydive Buzz.

Bryson William Verdun Hayes, known as Verdun, made a tandem jump at the age of 101 years and 38 days, the company says.

There's sort of a designated driver in Jason Stavely's circle of Iraq buddies, but he doesn't take away people's car keys. He takes the guns.

"Come toward September-October, if I get the feeling, I'm more than happy to give my guns back to my buddy again," said Stavely.

Stavely has bad memories from the war that get triggered every autumn. And last year, one of his Marine Corps friends died by suicide in October. So Stavely's therapist at the Veterans Affairs clinic suggested getting his guns out of the house.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut U.S. Marine Michael Zacchea had a job to do in 2004: train and lead the first Iraqi Army battalion after the U.S. disbanded the country’s military post invasion.

This hour, we revisit our conversation with Zacchea, and co-author Ted Kemp about their book The Ragged Edge which details the challenges Zacchea faced leading a diverse group of Iraqis. 

Two combat veterans from Connecticut are the lead plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Army. They say an army review board failed to consider post-traumatic stress disorder when it decided not to upgrade their less-than-honorable discharges. The Yale Law Clinic filed the suit Monday in New Haven.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, is calling for major federal investments to modernize Veterans Affair facilities. Last month, Senate Democrats proposed a $10 billion plan to modernize VA facilities over the next 10 years.

Lori Mack/WNPR

Two Connecticut war veterans are supporting a bill that would provide access to mental health services for those receiving other-than-honorable discharges. They called on Congress to pass the Honor Our Commitment Act, a bill introduced by Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and co-sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut U.S. Marine Michael Zacchea had a job to do in 2004: train and lead the first Iraqi Army battalion after the U.S. disbanded the country’s military post invasion.

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