Military

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.

Hundreds of troops have arrived to assist Border Patrol agents.  But National Guard operations are not yet fully underway.

photo of two women holding a marine corp photo plaque
Jay Price / American Homefront

Female veterans are nearly 2 ½ 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.

Female veterans are nearly 2 1/2 times more likely than their civilian counterparts to kill themselves. Advocates say women's mental health challenges are different from those of men.

The Bureau of Land Management has partnered with Team Rubicon - a veterans group - to train former service members to fight wildfires.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'You Could Get In Trouble'

Apr 13, 2018
Portrait of Josh Groll
Elizabeth Friend

The start of the Iraq War in 2003 divided the country and mobilized a new anti-war movement. Josh Groll was in middle school at the time. His parents were firmly opposed to the war, but unlike many other anti-war protestors, Groll's dad was on active duty, and his family was stationed at Fort Bragg.

Kids in military families average six to nine moves before they graduate high school. That means navigating new schools, finding new friends, and catching up in classes ... over and over again.

As the Navy plans to increase the number of ships, it's looking for new ways to keep sailors in the service, even allowing them to leave for a year and come back.

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.

The app uses music and audio to help amputees lessen the pain and discomfort of walking with a prosthetic leg.

photo of John Hedley holding his book Saddle Up.
John Hedley

On his desk sits a bumper sticker that reads “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” For John Hedley this statement is personal, not political. He vividly remembers coming home from Vietnam to angry crowds who branded him and his fellow service members “potheads, murderers and nutjobs.” His solution? Showing first-hand support for the next generation of soldiers.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Bringing Shakespeare To Bragg

Mar 29, 2018
Joseph Henderson addresses a group of students enrolled at a summer arts enrichment program at Fort Bragg.
Rodrigo Dorfman

Joseph Henderson was inspired to use his training as an actor and children's educator to help military children and their families.  

Since last year, the Army has required a fitness test before recruits start basic training.

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.

The Navy blames cost-cutting for the elimination of its two Combat Camera units, which take photos and videos of naval operations.

Military retirees can camp, golf, and fish at hundreds of military bases. It costs less than civilian resorts, making the bases popular vacation spots for thousands of former service members.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Helping Soldiers Find Their Voice

Mar 19, 2018
Courtesy Lenore Yarger and Steve Woolford

For 16 years, Lenore Yarger and Steve Woolford have answered the phone at the G.I. Rights Hotline, a number military service members can call for free and confidential counseling on benefits, regulations, discharges, grievances, and what it means to be a conscientious objector. The hotline is sponsored in part by Fayetteville's Quaker House, which has been advocating for peace since 1969.

A model of a bronze monument that would commemorate a top-secret World War II program that brought hundreds of Russian aviators to Elizabeth City to train alongside Americans.
Jay Price / WUNC

People in Elizabeth City are taking sides in a fight over a proposed monument, and the outcome could have international implications.

Some veterans say they contracted hepatitis from the "jet gun" that was used to immunize them in the Vietnam era, but researchers haven't proven that link.

This Feb. 7, 2018, photo, shows Leandra Mulla at her home in Tabor City, N.C. As a high school freshman in 2014, Mulla told Army investigators her ex-boyfriend dragged her to a secluded area of their base in Germany and sexually assaulted her.
Gerry Broome / AP

A decade after the Pentagon began confronting rape in the ranks, the U.S. military frequently fails to protect or provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other children on base, an Associated Press investigation has found.

BMW, Microsoft, and CVS are among the companies that conduct on-base job training for service members who will soon leave the military.

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.

Top secret Army experiments exposed thousands of veterans to potential chemical and biological weapons. Some are still waiting for follow up medical care.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'These Soldiers Are My Children'

Mar 5, 2018
Master Sergeat Judy Betancourt in 2009 with her six year old son Christian.
Courtesy Judy Betancourt

Master Sergeant Judy Betancourt found her calling in military service. A self-described female warrior, she's served 24 years in the Army, deploying overseas six times. But the job she loves has come at a personal cost. Her decision to remain on active duty after the birth of her son Christian meant months and years away from him.

As part of a recently released plan, the Trump Administration is proposing an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Finding Peace In The Present'

Feb 25, 2018
Portrait of Phil Sussman
Courtesy Phil Sussman

Before coming to Fort Bragg in 2016, Phil Sussman fractured his spine in a training accident, an injury he feared would end his military career.

"The pain was hands down the worst thing I've ever felt in my life, I can't even describe it," said Sussman. "I couldn't move, couldn’t roll over. It would bring my wife to tears every time she'd try to move me."

Still, Sussman was determined to continue his rigorous course of training.  His physical therapist, a former Green Beret, gave his blessing.

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

U.S. advisors practice training “Afghan soldiers” — actually American troops  brought to Fort Polk to augment civilian role players actually from Afghanistan. Looking on are trainers who are evaluating the advisors’ performance
Jay Price / WUNC

The Army is creating a new kind of large unit for a mission that American troops have performed for decades: helping troops of friendly foreign nations train and fight.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Not A Shrinking Violet'

Feb 18, 2018
Portrait of Christina Railey, circa 1975.
Courtesy Patrick Railey

Patrick Railey was nine years old in 1970 when his father was killed in Vietnam. On the same day Chief Warrant Officer George Railey was fatally wounded, Patrick, his sister, and his mother were moving from Florida to their new house near Fort Bragg.

"I remember the scene of a military vehicle pulling up, well-dressed soldiers getting out and coming up to the house," Railey recalled. "You always knew that was bad news. You didn't want that to be your family."

The VA hopes to roll out a national "whole health" program for veterans, offering them acupuncture, tai chi, yoga,and other alternative mental health therapies.

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