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Beyond the Battlefield

Credit user vox efx - photoshop fresco / flickr

Over 70,000 people in Michigan served in the U.S. armed services during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Michigan Radio’s Beyond the Battlefield series takes a look at how post-9/11 veterans are faring.

Beyond the Battlefield features, interviews and online video profiles, exploring issues like employment, entrepreneurship, and reintegration into civilian life.

The series also looks at how Michiganders think state and federal governments are doing at addressing veterans' care, as well as the particular struggles female veterans encounter when returning home.

9-11 veterans: Jamaine Atkins, Sherman Powell, Russ Dotson (top, L-R), Cassie Michael, Curtis Gibson, Andrew Hunter (middle), Eric Fretz, Cody Barnhart, Brendan Lejeune (bottom).
Mark Brush, Paula Friedrich, Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The United States military is currently involved in the longest period of sustained, armed conflict in our nation’s history.

Yet only around 0.5% of the U.S. population is on active military duty.

Contrast that with 9% of the U.S. population who served during WWII, and you can understand how there’s been a growing gap between those who haven't served in the military and those who have.

Listen to how these post 9/11 vets from Michigan describe some of the more awkward interactions they’ve had with people:

Why do some people get so awkward talking to veterans?

Jul 10, 2015
Photo courtesy Russ Dotson

You've heard it before: "Thank you for your service." Maybe you've even said it.

Veterans hear it a lot. And what we've heard from talking with veterans across the Armed Forces is that there's nothing wrong with being thanked. But then the conversation stalls.

Spectrum Health

It's rarely easy making the transition from the military to a career in the civilian world.

Jamie Hamming knows that.  She was an Army combat medic between 1990 and 1995.  Her tours included stints in Korea and Somalia.

Flickr user Liza Lagman Sperl / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Motor City Blight Busters are developing Veteran's Village Center, which provides housing for veterans and the opportunity to work with their organization.

The Center is currently under renovation. It’s located in Northwest Detroit near other properties owned by Blight Busters. 

Vet to media: We're not all broken

Jul 9, 2015
Courtesy of Jason Hale

The Next Idea

I am a veteran of two wars – one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan.  Joining the military has been the best decision of my life.  But if you spend any time watching the news or scrolling through social media, you might wonder why I would say that. 

Veterans and civilians bond as they run together

Jul 9, 2015

The model for Team Red, White, and Blue is simple. Give veterans and civilians the chance to run together in a relaxed environment and let conversations and friendships happen naturally.

There are no fees or forms or requirements to take part, and everyone is welcome.

What started with a few veteran friends at the University of Michigan in 2010 has now ballooned into 115 chapters all over the U.S.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Especially in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. They burned everything from tires, batteries, and plastic to human and medical waste.

Curtis Gibson is an Air Force veteran. He served in Afghanistan in late 2011.

“I’d see things floating in the air — burned papers — you see them floating through the air so you know you’re taking something in,” Gibson says.

He says he had a medical exam when he came home to Detroit.

Flickr user istolethetv / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

As civilians it can be hard to know what to say or what to ask when you encounter veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Often people will thank veterans for their service, but Erin Smith, a psychologist with the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare system, says this can be a complicated statement for veterans to process.

Courtesy photo / Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center

More Michigan veterans are trying “telehealth” appointments.

It’s sort of like seeing your doctor through a computer online, but the computer can also relay a heartbeat, the sound of a person's lungs, or detailed pictures of an injury.

A piggy bank, stethescope and bundle of one dollar bills
401(k) 2013 / Flickr

This week in Michigan Politics, political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks about a new law affecting school districts in trouble, college tuition hikes, a former inmate healthcare snafu, and Michigan veterans.  

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

There are many stories about how going to war impacts individuals. But what about the impact of overseas service on families? As we continue our series, Beyond the Battlefield, meet a family whose members have fought battles overseas and back home as well.

"No" is not an option

The Michigan Marine recruit's suicide came just two weeks after he entered boot camp
Marines on Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Department of Defense reports 20,000 service members experienced at least one sexual assault in 2014. That's virtually unchanged since 2010, despite the Department of Defense's insistence that it has tackled the problem and that "most active-duty members received effective training on sexual assault."

U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

When veterans come home they are thanked for their service, but what is provided for them to make the transition from the military to civilian life?

From 1995 to 2006 Sherman Powell served in the Army, first as an infantry officer, then as a tank officer.  He was among the first veterans to return home from the Iraq War.

Kate Wells

When Eric Thompson hit rock bottom, he really hit rock bottom. Like, fleeing-from-the-police-in-a-car-chase rock bottom.

“I wasn’t scared,” Thompson says of that night. “I didn’t have a plan. I was done. Seriously. I wanted to die. I just didn’t want to feel anymore.”

As part of our series looking into how returning veterans are living in Michigan, we took a look at a system of courts across the US and Michigan that are designed specifically for veterans.

Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio

In Afghanistan and Iraq, especially in the early years, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. 

“A burn pit’s just a big hole in the ground. You push dirt up and just have trash there, and light it on fire and walk away,” says Army veteran Eric Mullins.

Mullins and I met up in Campus Martius Park in Detroit, near where he works.

He served in Iraq in 2003 and again in 2008. On his first tour, he was assigned to burn barrels of human waste.

Courtesy photo / Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center

The VA hospital that serves 26,000 veterans in the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin is having trouble recruiting healthcare providers.

Plus, almost one in five employees at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center is eligible for retirement.

Brad Nelson is a spokesman for the Iron Mountain based clinic. He says they’ve compiled a list of providers they’re expecting to be short on in the next decade.

We must do more than say "thank you" for veterans in Michigan

Jul 6, 2015
Flickr/wiguardpics / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea             

I can’t recall a time when I was thanked for my military service and didn’t wonder just what exactly that person meant. Were they thankful that I took the defense of the nation in hand? Did they think that I stood watch on some specified border between insurgents and our coalition forces? Perhaps it was simply good American manners that they show appreciation for those who serve.

John M. Cropper / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A new poll from Michigan Radio and Public Sector Consultants asks voters in Michigan about their perception of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The survey of 600 Michigan voters found that a strong majority support the military as an employment option, despite the fact that most do not have family currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

9-11 veterans: Jamaine Atkins, Sherman Powell, Russ Dotson (top, L-R), Cassie Michael, Curtis Gibson, Andrew Hunter (middle), Eric Fretz, Cody Barnhart, Brendan Lejeune (bottom).
Mark Brush, Paula Friedrich, Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

There used to be a time in our country's history when many people had a connection to someone serving in the Armed Forces - people had a brother, a cousin, an uncle or an aunt who served in WWII, Korea, or Vietnam.

Today, having that connection to the military is not as common. Volunteers fill the military's ranks, and civilians have grown farther apart from those who put their lives on the line.

All this week, we're bringing you stories about Michigan's post 9/11 veterans - stories about what life has been like since their return home.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After spending years of taking orders in the military, a growing number of Michigan veterans are now giving orders in the civilian world. 

"A couple years ago, I had a few home-brew beers with a buddy of mine," Erik May says. "And I started asking him where the beer geographically came from.  Where the ingredients came from.  Pretty quickly I realized there was a big need for local malt."

From that realization, Air Force veteran Erik May launched his West Michigan malt-making business.

World War II ended 70 years ago in September. Here are three stories from veterans who live in Michigan.

We'll start with a love story.

Bill Berkley, U.S. Navy, Pacific

Bill Berkley was just a kid without a care in Paducah, Kentucky until December 7, 1941.

“I was 14 years old, but I can remember that day just like it was yesterday. We had been playing football and I got home and mom was crying,” Berkley says, recalling when he first learned of the attack and the death of so many sailors.

american flag in autumn with car and fence
Vox efx / Flickr

Over 70,000 people in Michigan served in the U.S. armed services during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Beginning Monday, July 6,  Michigan Radio’s Beyond the Battlefield project will take a look at how those post-9/11 vets are faring. Through news features, interviews, and online video profiles, Michigan Radio will explore issues like employment, entrepreneurship, and reintegration into civilian life.

Beyond the Battlefield
Tuesday, July 7, 6:30 - 8:00pm

Grand River Brewery
117 W. Louis Glick Hwy,
Jackson, MI 49201

 Over 70,000 people in Michigan served in the U.S. armed services during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Join Michigan Radio News Director Vincent Duffy as we talk about how those post-9/11 vets are faring.