For military veterans, the transition from service to civilian life can be stressful and unpredictable. When she was a freshman in high school, Alexis Werner was startled by the changes she saw in her stepfather, who had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan. She, along with Vietnam veteran and counselor Gregg Dietz, formed the nonprofit Seeds of Hope, to address issues of Post-Traumatic stress among servicemen and women. Their latest outreach project is a documentary called Our Way Home, which premieres tomorrow at Soldiers and Sailors Museum in Oakland.  Alexis Werner and Gregg Dietz explain the purpose of the film and how they plan on helping veterans and their families.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / flickr

Next month at Heinz Hall, former Steeler and decorated Vietnam veteran Rocky Bleier will perform a one man show about his life. It is described as an intimate portrait featuring highlights of Rocky's multi-faceted life as a four-time Super Bowl Champion, wounded warrior, family man and community activist. Rocky Bleier joins us in studio along with the man who wrote the play Gene Collier.

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

  Bill Ward served in the army from 1974-76 and went into construction afterwards, but recent health issues forced him out of his job and into the path of potential homelessness.

But Ward is not homeless thanks to the “Pittsburgh Rapid Results Veterans’ Homeless Boot Camp.”

The Boot Camp “is effectively like a spark to really galvanize the community to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015 and really kind of bring everyone together for a common goal and a common cause,” Jesse Rodriguez, operations director of the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, said.

Checkpoint Helps Veterans Reacclimate to Civilian Life

Nov 11, 2014
TeamSaintLouis / Flickr


This segment originally aired in longer form in June 2014.

Southwest Pennsylvania is home to 220,000 veterans, with 97,000 living in Allegheny County. After returning from active duty, all veterans, whether injured or uninjured, are in need of resources such as employment, physical and mental healthcare, job training and housing.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly one million veterans, but that only tells half the story.

1,500 of them are homeless, which is a 46.2 percent increase since 2009.

About 2,400 Pennsylvania vets claimed Unemployment Compensation benefits last November according to the Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.

Marine Sgt. Doug Vitale was leading his squad through Afghanistan in 2011 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both his legs above the knee.  Because he lost so much blood, he also suffered strokes on both sides of his brain.

“He’s still in a rehab program, for almost three years now, to continue to get better and improve,” Alexis Vitale, Doug’s wife, said. “And he is, he does continue to get better, but we work for a long time for small things at this point, but he’s determined and he’s hard working and keeps going.”

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

When veterans face criminal charges in Allegheny County, many of them are not represented by experienced lawyers.  Instead, they are often defended by law students.

“It’s critical to help these individuals on so many different levels,” said Allison Gordon, Duquesne University law student and clinic manager. “We have them socially engaged, we have their medical engagement through VA resources and then for us to be able to help them with their legal issues, it helps bring them back into the community and be active members.”

Project Journey: Supporting the Needs of Women Veterans

Jan 10, 2014
Jill_Bejger-Frederick / Project Journey-Veterans Leadership Program

Pennsylvania has the 8th largest population of women veterans in the country.

The Veteran’s Leadership program, which provides housing, employment and support services for eligible local veterans, was recently selected by the Newman’s Own Foundation to receive a $45,000 grant to help female Veteran’s with career development.

Project Journey Coordinator Trudy Friend and Development Director and Community Relations Michelle Margittai work with these Veterans by providing resources that aid in their transition back to civilian life. 

SWPA WWII Memorial

This Friday, Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II memorial will be unveiled on the North Shore. Larry Kirkland, the artist behind the project says it was a long time coming.

“The memorial has had four different locations and four different designs. It really has been a challenge. No one had any idea how complicated building something like this would be and we had no idea how to go about fundraising for it,” he says.

The memorial is meant to represent Pittsburgh's unique role in the war, "very quickly they shifted from making pickles to making airplanes" he explains.