American Homefront

The American Homefront Project is reporting on military life and veterans issues. We're visiting bases to chronicle how American troops are working and living. We're meeting military families. We're talking with veterans -- in their homes, on their jobs, at school, at VA hospitals -- to learn about the challenges they face.

We cover major policy issues at the Pentagon and Veterans Administration, and we report on the family issues that service members and veterans experience in their daily lives. From the youngest military recruits to the veterans of World War II, we're reporting in-depth stories about Americans who serve.

Funding for WUNC's American Homefront Project comes from:

  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
  • The Bob Woodruff Foundation, dedicated to ensuring that post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families make a successful transition.

    Visit the American Homefront web site for more stories.

Capt. Dean VanderLey, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command for the Mid-Atlantic region, standing in front of NOAA's Sewell's Point tidal gauge, which measures the sea level at Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base.
Jay Price / WUNC

When President Donald Trump visited a shipyard at Newport News, Va. this month, he told an audience of sailors and shipbuilders that the United States would defeat any danger and handle any threat.

But one of the biggest threats to the military is one that Trump didn't mention: sea level rise.  

An image of service members at Camp Lejeune in NC
Public domain

Veterans stationed at Camp Lejeune who were exposed to contaminated drinking water now have a chance to receive additional compensation.

The Obama administration will provide more than $2 billion in disability benefits to veterans assigned to Lejeune when the camp's water was tainted between August 1953 and December 1987. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that up to 900,000 service members might have been exposed to the contaminated water.

Veterans with denied disability claims wait an average of four to five years for appeals hearings. The VA predicts the delay will get worse if Congress doesn't streamline the process.

Three veterans stand before Judge Jacqueline L. Lee during their graduation ceremony from the Harnett County Veterans Treatment Court
Jay Price / American Homefront

The number of special courts for military veterans who get in trouble with the law is increasing rapidly.

The first veterans treatment court opened eight years ago in upstate New York. Now there more than 300 of them across the country, and hundreds more are expected to open in the next few years.

An image of a gavel
creative commons

More than 300 veteran treatment courts exist around the country to help former service members who have been charged with low-level crimes. The courts put veterans in counseling and rehabilitation programs for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. 

The number of veteran treatment courts has grown in the last decade, and proponents argue that the system better serves veterans while also cutting court, jail and prison costs. However, in states like North Carolina, only three courts exist to treat a large veteran population. 

New rules detail how military leaders must treat transgender service members. It's the latest step in the Pentagon's effort to integrate transgender people into the armed forces.

Military veterans were among the people most affected by this month's shutdown of ITT Technical Institutes. More than six-thousand former service members were enrolled at the for-profit college chain.

St. Francis' satyr butterly
Jay Price / WUNC

The U.S. military has joined forces with environmental groups to preserve natural habitats. More than 400 threatened and endangered species are benefiting, and so is the Pentagon. 

This week, the major presidential candidates will continue a longstanding tradition of speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Performance Psychologist Meghan Halbrook of Fort Bragg’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Center shows a soldier how to use an ear sensor to monitor his stress level as he rests between sessions of machine gun training.
Jay Price / WUNC

With biofeedback, breath control, and other mindfulness techniques, an Army unit hopes to help turn its paratroopers into more effective fighters.

The new center in Tacoma, Washington comes after years of complaints from service members that it’s nearly impossible to find autism therapy for their children.

The University of Southern California is doing something unique -- offering a college degree called an MBV – a Masters of Business for Veterans.

So-called "burn pits" were common at U.S. military outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legislation in the Senate would create a center to study the effects of breathing their smoke.

To commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, some American high school students are traveling to Normandy, France to make sure the victims of World War II aren't forgotten.

The V.A. is building columbariums at several veterans cemeteries, where there is no more space for traditional burials.

As the nation prepares to commemorate Memorial Day, more than 1600 service members remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. For the families of some of them, the search for answers has become a lifelong pursuit.

While the Army and Marines are just now opening all combat jobs to female troops, women have been serving on -- and commanding -- Navy warships for years.

Beginning this month, tattoo enthusiasts who serve in the U.S. Navy can ink a lot more of their bodies. The new policy is designed to help recruit millennials, who sometimes have been turned away from military service because they have too much body art.

More than four years after the military’s discriminatory policies against gay and lesbian service members ended, veterans advocates say the Pentagon has not done enough to help the roughly 80,000 troops kicked out of the services for being gay since World War II.

Edwin Cottrell holds an illustration of the P-47D fighter plane he flew in World War II.
Jay Price / WUNC

Edwin Cottrell, a World War II pilot with the 48th Fighter Group, told his story as part of the "My Life, My Story" project at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, N.C.  He talked to VA interviewer Melanie McConnell about his life in and after the military.  Later, he spoke with WUNC reporter Jay Price.

93-year-old Dorothy Managan is among the patients who participated in the "My Life, My Story" project at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, N.C.  She talked to the VA interviewer about her experiences as a nurse during and after World War II.  She repeated some of those stories for WUNC reporter Jay Price.

Thor Ringler of the Department of Veterans Affairs interviews Korean War veteran Darrell Krenz for the 'My Life, My Story' project.
Department of Veterans Affairs

An initiative at several veterans hospitals adds something new to patients' medical records: their life stories.

Service members with Other-Than-Honorable discharges receive no veterans benefits and are much more likely to become homeless. But the military has no consistent standards about who gets a dreaded "OTH."

Nearly 83,000 U.S. service members are still listed as missing in action from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and other conflicts. Many of their families still hope their remains will be identified and returned home.

Harold Ivey holds the military medals of his brother Charles, who died in the Korean War.
Jay Price / American Homefront

63 years after the Korean War ended, remains of U.S. service members are being identified and returned to their families -- thanks to advances in DNA technology.

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