veterans

Courtesy photo

In 1999, Lisa and Sumner Bemis met at a bar during a Penguins hockey game. She was intrigued by his unusual name, “and the fact that he had a Camaro," recalled Lisa.

"I loved muscle cars, " she said, "so it worked.”

Less than three years later they were married. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks happened Sumner was deployed as part of the National Guard and was in Iraq from 2005-2006. When he returned, Lisa was overjoyed to have him back. But she said he was a different person.

A workshop held in the North Hills on Friday provided mental health training to clergy and social workers who work with veterans.

Lt. Colonel Michele Papakie has been in the Air Force for 28 years. She’s the Inspector General at the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

She spoke to clergy and social workers about her deployments and what she has seen in her colleagues as well as her grandfather, father and son who have all served in the military.

Veteran Stories: Project 4-1-2 Kicks Off This Week

Oct 6, 2014
Courtesy photo

This week, in partnership with the Community Leadership Course for Veterans (CLCV), WESA begins airing Veterans’ Stories: Project 4-1-2. This is part of a community impact project created by Leadership Pittsburgh to expose post 9/11 veterans to networks and opportunities for service and enhancement of their leadership skills.

Joining us to discuss their role in this initiative are former U.S. Army Sergeant James Yauger, who works with VetAdvisor to help veterans transition to civilian life; and Lieutenant Ariana Pourmonir Mohnke, U.S. Coast Guard.

Project 22 Explores the Issue of Suicide Among Veterans

Oct 6, 2014
Theo Collins

According to the Veteran’s Administration, it is estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day. This sobering fact served as the impetus for the documentary Project 22.

The film chronicles the journey of two combat-wounded veterans across America. They traveled the country to speak with veterans who had contemplated, or attempted suicide, as well as researchers and healthcare providers. Joining us to discuss the film is Theo Collins, a law student at Duquesne University, a Marine Corps veteran and an associate producer of the film.

Short Film 'Home Range' Follows a Veteran's Troubled Homecoming

Oct 6, 2014

Inspired by 1978’s “The Deer Hunter,” writer/director Natalia Kaniasty shot the short film “Home Range” in her hometown of Indiana, PA.

The narrative follows Bobby Novak, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who returns home to Western Pennsylvania while his best friend from childhood does not. Bobby must struggle to adjust to civilian life and re-assimilate into his community. Kaniasty joins us to discuss the process of crafting an emotional narrative in her own backyard. 

Created, Produced by Area Veterans, Series Spotlights Military Experience

A unique series of broadcast interviews created and produced by a group of Pittsburgh-area active-duty military personnel and veterans will air on 90.5 WESA every Tuesday starting October 7 through Veterans Day (November 11). Segments will air during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Marcus Charleston

In September of 1914, 250 veterans from across the U.S. and its territories gathered at the Schenley Hotel in Pittsburgh to form what would become the largest veterans’ advocacy group in the nation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

The hotel is now the William Pitt Union, but former military members and public officials are assembling there once again to mark the organization's centennial.

“The people can feel that the community supports veterans around here,” Matt Hannan, president of Pitt-Vets, said, “but they don’t understand the legacy of what the veterans have committed to the community and contributed and that that legacy continues.”

Veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse could ping-pong through the criminal justice system for years without a support system that recognizes common problems facing former members of the military.

That’s the premise of Pennsylvania’s veterans treatment courts, which started as county initiatives several years ago to help the state’s veteran population — the fifth largest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

Checkpoint - Where Military Meets Community

Jun 16, 2014
TeamSaintLouis / Flickr

    

Southwest Pennsylvania is home to 220,000 Veterans, with 97,000 alone 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 health care, job training, and housing.

Until recently, Pittsburgh-area veterans did not have a centralized, dedicated place to find these kinds of resources. This problem was solved when Pittsburgh resident and Iraq War veteran Jared Souder founded Checkpoint, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Veterans find the resources they need to help resume their lives as civilians.

Checkpoint was created out of necessity, said Souder.

“I’m supposed to be a subject matter expert, and I would still run into walls, I would run into sort of confusing things, and just see the complexity of it and really saw the need for some way to help vets navigate and reduce complexity and just get better information into their hands so they can make more informed decisions to what they can connect with and what they can benefit from.”

Office of Congressman Tim Murphy

More than 10 months after U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy wrote to former Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Eric Shinseki asking what disciplinary action would be taken in the wake a Legionella outbreak at a Pittsburgh hospital, he has gotten an answer of sorts.

On Friday, the VA announced that Pittsburgh Healthcare System director and CEO Terry Wolf was placed on administrative leave, “pending the completion of administrative actions related to the Legionella outbreak.”

The head of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System has been put on administrative leave, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

System Director Terry Gerigk Wolf oversaw the healthcare facilities during the Legionella outbreak of 2011 and 2012, which resulted in the deaths of at least six people and sickened more than twenty others.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Home Depot Foundation has given $200,000  toward repairing the homes of 28 veterans in the Pittsburgh region. Without the repairs, some of the vets could end up homeless.

There are currently tens of thousands of homeless veterans in the U.S. and thousands more are at risk of becoming homeless. For those who are homeowners, security is not always a guarantee — many are one stop from becoming homeless.

“All I know is we wanted to get off that beach which we did because there was a lot of casualties,” recalls Ralph Russo of New Castle about the D-Day landing at Normandy 70 years ago today.

There where thousands of casualties—9,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded including 6,600 Americans.

96-year old Mike Vernillo of Pittsburgh served with the US 227th Field Artillery Battalion on June 6, 1944.

“It was very difficult; you can’t stop to help nobody, you have to just keep running.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is one of a group of more than 75 Mayors and county officials who’ve signed on to a nation-wide plan to end homelessness among those who’ve served in the military. First Lady Michelle Obama this week kicked off the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

“It really is a call to mayors and other elected officials to focus their attention on veterans who are homeless in our communities,” said Jane Vincent, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Philadelphia.

The U.S. Navy is coming to the Steel City, but don’t expect to see any aircraft carriers floating in the Mon.

During Navy Week (June 2 – June 8) sailors will be stationed throughout the city hosting events, providing musical entertainment and answering any questions about Navy life.

Navy spokesman Gary Ross said Navy Week is not a recruitment effort, but an educational event.

“We are not there to recruit,” he said. “We are there to create awareness and understanding about what our Navy does for our nation.”

At Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Memorial Day is more than just hotdogs and hamburgers.

“Over the years, as we had more and more conflicts, the building became a symbol representative of a memorial for all veterans of all branches of service. The only one like it of its kind in the nation,” said Soldiers and Sailors President and CEO John McCabe.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 995,000 veterans living in Pennsylvania.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

There are about 1,200 veterans in Allegheny County who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Over the last year or so there has been an increase in the number of women and women with children who are in need of emergency housing.

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker is pushing for legislation that would allow disabled veterans to receive a real estate tax exemption regardless of the severity of their disability.

Currently, Pennsylvania offers an “all-or-nothing” program, where veterans who are 100 percent disabled receive a complete property tax exemption and those who are 80 or 90 percent disabled get nothing.

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) said the tax exemption should be proportional to the percentage of disability.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs released a report last year stating that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

That number hit home for Marine Sgt. Daniel Egbert and Army Sgt. Matt King; both of whom served in Iraq. The two set out on a 22-day road trip from Los Angeles to Ground Zero in New York, producing a documentary focused on raising awareness about veteran suicide.

That documentary is "Project 22."

Under the Keystone: A Veteran's Progress

Mar 12, 2014
Jake Danna Stevens / Scranton Times-Tribune, via PublicSource

Earl Granville, of Scranton, Pa., is the second person featured in Under the Keystone, a new collaborative series from our content partner PublicSource. A veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan and lost a brother to PTSD, Granville is now studying mental health counseling so he can help veterans and others who have come through difficult situations.

On average, a veteran in the Pittsburgh areas has to wait one day shy of a year between the time they apply for disability benefits and the day they are approved.

Though the backlog has been shrinking, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says it is not falling fast enough, and in an effort to fix the situation, he and bipartisan group of six senators have introduced legislation aimed at fixing the system.

The Veterans Administration deems a claim to be backlogged after it has been in the system for more than 125 days. By its own admission, there are nearly 400,000 cases on that list.

Pennsylvania’s military veterans can now have their service noted on their driver’s licenses.

The new designation is free, though the costs of renewing the license apply.

At a roll-out news conference Tuesday, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) said the designation helps identify veterans so people can simply show respect.

“And it will come in handy in the worst of times when a veteran may find him or herself in a dangerous situation,” Baker said. “This designation is something our veterans have asked for, and worked for, for a very long time.”

The VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System is celebrating its annual "National Salute to Veteran Patients," a week-long series of events that applaud veterans' sacrifices and draws attention to those receiving medical care.

In Pittsburgh, the VA will hold events at both its University Drive campus in Oakland and H.J. Heinz campus in O'Hara Township.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of people converged on downtown Pittsburgh Monday for the annual Veterans Day parade. Many of them were watching, and even more were marching.

Dozens of high school bands provided entertainment while veterans from every generation marched down the length of Smithfield Street.

Onlookers greeted the vets with cheers and applause, shouting “Thank you!”

Paul Kennedy, western vice commander for the Pennsylvania American Legion, lives in the North Hills and said it was great to see so many people come out for the parade.

The city of Pittsburgh will hold its 94th annual Veterans Day parade on Monday.

Tony Filardi of Overbrook served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and has been the chair of the Veterans Day parade committee since 1990.

Filardi said the parade is an important tradition that pays tribute both to veterans and to active duty military.

“It’s to honor all the veterans who served in the service and also the military people who are serving currently,” Filardi said. “After all, without them, our nation would not be free, because freedom is not free.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is co-sponsoring a bill to help more than 4,000 retired Pennsylvania veterans keep their health care plans.

On Oct. 1, a new policy from the Department of Defense will force some retired veterans off of TRICARE Prime, the most affordable option in the Military Health System for people under 65.

According to the new policy, only veterans living within 100 miles of a Military Treatment Facility or a BRAC site will be able to stay on TRICARE Prime. Now, more than 171,000 people nationally are at risk of losing the military health care.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Imagine your mom, or your grandmother, maybe even your great-grandmother, with a secret past. Perhaps you know that she’s lived through some major historical events like World War II.

Now imagine finding out she not only lived through it – but was an integral part of secret military operations during the war.

That is part of Pittsburgh native Julia Parsons’ story. She was part of an all-women’s German code-breaking team.

Patriotic Cabs Provide Jobs for Veterans

Jul 24, 2013
Star Transportation Group

VETaxi is the most patriotic ride on the road. The Pittsburgh-based company owned by Vietnam veteran Robert Delucia hires American military veteran drivers, transports customers in American-built vehicles and uses solely American-sourced fuel.  As a branch of the Star Transportation Group, VETaxi aims to provide jobs to veterans where they are then given the opportunity to own and operate their own cab.

The state House is advancing a proposal to make it easier for military veterans to receive free mental health counseling in less formal settings.

The bill would change licensing rules to allow retired mental health professionals to volunteer their services through approved groups serving veterans and their families, as well as military personnel.

As part of a national mandate from President Obama to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals in the veterans’ health system, the VA Pittsburgh Health System has hired 30 new mental health professionals plus an additional 14 to fill existing vacancies.

“I think it’s obvious that if we have more people offering service, then more people could obtain services and obtain them quicker,” said Jeffrey Peters, associate chief of staff for behavior health at the VA Pittsburgh.

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