American Homefront

The American Homefront Project is reporting on military life and veterans issues. We're visiting bases to chronicle how troops are working and living. We're meeting military families. We're talking with veterans  to learn about the challenges they face.

We cover major policy issues at the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs, 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:

For more information, visit the American Homefront website.

Jamie Jones hugs her husband, Army veteran James Wallace, as they move into their new Winston-Salem duplex apartment.
Jay Price/WUNC

Winston-Salem is among a group of cities nationwide that say they've met the White House goal to end veteran homelessness.

Shortly after Barack Obama became President in 2009, he announced an ambitious goal -- to end homelessness among military veterans by the end of 2015. Now, at the deadline, results are mixed.

Sgt. Earl Lendore, a food service specialist in the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, prepares a meal in the Ft. Bragg DFAC.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/82nd Combat Aviation Brigade PAO

The Army hopes changes in its dining facilities will simultaneously save money, make meals more nutritious, and persuade more soldiers to eat there.

There are signs that transgender people could serve openly in the United States military within the next year.
The U.S. Army / Flickr Creative Commons

Note: This is a rebroadcast from earlier this year.

The American military permits people to serve regardless of sexual orientation, but there are still policies precluding military service based on gender identity.

About 15,000 transgender people currently serve in the American military in violation of the rules. The United States lags behind many other Western nations that allow transgender people to serve openly, but Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is pushing for change.

As traditional veterans organizations like the American Legion and VFW lose members, younger vets are gravitating toward dozens of smaller, more specialized groups that offer a social outlet and opportunity to serve.

The leadership of the American Legion and VFW is seeking younger, more diverse members. But they face a challenge changing their public image.


A veteran is honored at Fort Rucker
Fort Rucker / Flickr Creative Commons

For many veterans of World War II and Vietnam, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts were popular social gathering places to share stories of war experiences. And they were powerful lobbying voices in the political sphere.

But across the nation, participation in these organizations has declined. Veterans groups are making new efforts to recruit younger members.

To commemorate Veterans Day, the American Homefront Project talks with former service members about their time in the armed forces.

Groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have served former service members for a century. But declining membership threatens to lessen their influence.


As more military jobs are opened to women, Congress may face the question of whether to require women to register for the Selective Service.


The last American was drafted in 1973, but the U.S. maintains an elaborate infrastructure to re-activate the draft if Congress ever decides it's needed.


A U.S. Army Air Forces plane flies over 'The Hump' in the Himalayan Mountains in 1945. Many U.S. planes crashed in this area during World War II due to the terrain.
United States Army Air Forces / Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of U.S. aircrafts were lost during World War II along a remote military supply route in the Himalayas called the Hump. The treacherous terrain caused hundreds of World War II service members to crash, scattering their remains along the region.

For decades, families have waited for the lost veterans' remains to return to the U.S., but a border dispute between India and China has stalled military search efforts from recovering the remains.

Peter Janse of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, examines one of the engine of the B-24 Hot as Hell in Arunachal Pradesh, India in 2008.
JPAC/Jesse M. Shipps

A U.S. recovery team has returned to a remote part of India to try to retrieve the remains of troops killed in World War II. Family members say a border dispute between India and China has delayed recovery efforts for years.


There are signs that transgender people could serve openly in the United States military within the next year.
The U.S. Army / Flickr Creative Commons

The American military permits people to serve regardless of sexual orientation, but there are still policies precluding military service based on gender identity.

About 15,000 transgender people currently serve in the American military in violation of the rules. The United States lags behind many other Western nations that allow transgender people to serve openly, but Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is pushing for change.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt (second from left) meets with service members May 20, after announcing two new university programs to serve current and former military personnel.
Melanie Busbee/UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill becomes the 11th public university in North Carolina to open a  campus veterans center.

A federal program provides housing vouchers to help veterans pay their rent. But in cities with expensive housing markets, many landlords won't accept them.


The Huntsville Times/Steve Doyle

Veterans advocates, protesters, and even President Obama have cited the statistic that 22 veterans a day kill themselves. But the reality is complex, and the number can be misleading.

Every morning the flags at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Washington, are raised in a color guard ceremony.

The 10 men who do the job are inmates and veterans. 

An image of a sign for Fort Bragg
Fish Cop / Public Domain

 

The U.S. Army announced Thursday it is cutting about 40,000 soldiers nationwide. Fort Bragg is home to more than 50,000 troops in Fayetteville. The base will largely be spared deep cuts in the latest round of military downsizing.

Only four Iraq veterans have received the Medal of Honor, and some service members say the Pentagon has become stingy in recognizing valor.

Jay Price/WUNC

The discipline of military service, as it does for many young men, changed John Blackjack’s life.

"He was a wild child with us," said Roseanne Wray, whose family adopted and raised Staff Sgt. Blackjack.  "The Army did something wonderful for him. They turned him into a soldier."

Blackjack, who died  May 31 of a respiratory illness, was a miniature mule. Since 1983, he had served as the mascot for a major supply unit, the 1st Theater Sustainment Command.  An estimated 25,000 soldiers had contact with him while serving at Ft. Bragg since the Wrays donated him to the Army.

Jay Price/WUNC

Most people expect their eternal rest will be peaceful.

But not the ones who want to be buried in the Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery now under construction in Goldsboro.

North Carolina’s newest veterans cemetery is right under the flight path of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. On some days, the roar of low-flying fighter jets and aerial tankers overwhelms the cemetery every few minutes.

A massive data breach at the federal Office of Personnel Management has exposed the Social Security numbers and personnel records of nearly every federal worker. The implications for federal employees, military service members and the intelligence community could be extraordinary.  

But at a very basic level U.S. service members have been at high risk for identity theft for decades.

Jay Price

Almost 1,000 British paratroopers are now packing up at Fort Bragg after nearly two months of training with their U.S. counterparts in the 82nd Airborne Division.

Multinational coalitions are a hallmark of modern conflict, in part because they give political legitimacy to military actions and spread the costs in both money and lives. But shrinking military budgets in both countries have made the ability to join forces more important.

Spc. Crisma Albarran, of Orland, Calif., detaches an ammunition case from its mount after a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flight over Iraq, March 14, 2010.
The U.S. Army / Flickr

This month, 19 women began the course to become Army Rangers at Ft. Benning, Ga.

It marks the first time females have been permitted to train for the special operations team. 

Under current military policy, women are still not allowed to serve in the Ranger regiment. The Pentagon is trying to determine whether women can handle the Army's toughest training. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC military reporter Jay Price about the Army's newest assessment of female soldiers.

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base."

It was known as Operation Babylift.

In the days before the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, Vietnamese children were taken out of the country and flown to the U.S.

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This is the second of four reports this week about the National Guard.

Inside the hangar at Washington state's Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), the Army National Guard mechanics are busy maintaining a neat line of Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters.

Gloria Hoeppner and her husband Earl Kornbrekke at their home in Friday Harbor, Washington. Heoppner, a World War II veteran, is trying to use a new Veterans Administration program to seek medical care closer to home.
Patricia Murphy

A $15 billion federal program intended to improve veterans' health care is off to a rocky start, and some members of Congress are calling for significant reforms.

The Veterans Choice program is supposed to help vets get timely health care, sometimes closer to home. Nearly 9 million veterans received identification cards in the mail from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  About 460,000 have tried since it began in November.

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This story is part of a three-part series about veteran benefits (Part 1 / Part 2).

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