WFYI 90.1's No Limits radio program discusses the Indiana Women's Veterans Conference taking place in June 2014. Guests include conference coordinator Najuma Austin, State Rep. Karlee Macer, D - Indianapolis. Listen here No Limits - Indiana Women's Veterans Conference - June 17, 2014Visit the Site
In June 2009, Chancellor Keesling took his own life while serving with the Army Reserve. Statistics show more American military personnel now die in Iraq and Afghanistan from suicide than from combat. Gregg Keesling reflects on his family’s experience in hopes of helping us better understand the enormity of the problem of suicide in the military, and what can be done to make the situation better.
In this documentary Chancellor Keesling's father, Gregg Keesling, reflects on his family’s experience in hopes of helping us better understand the enormity of the problem of suicide in the military, and what can be done to make the situation better.Visit the Site
"Lest We Forget" is a personal recollection of World War II from the unique perspective of Columbus, Indiana resident Gustav Potthoff, a survivor of the Japanese slave labor camp responsible for the building of the notorious Bridge over the River Kwai.Visit the Site
Pearl Harbor. Normandy. Iwo Jima. Where the fiercest battles were fought, Hoosiers did their part. The Indianapolis Star and WFYI honor their service in an unforgettable tribute.
The 30-minute documentary captures the full sweep of war: from the call to duty, to the grisliest combat, to returning home to wildly disparate greetings in Indiana. The 22 subjects, all Hoosiers, include Mayor Greg Ballard and former governor Edgar Whitcomb; Medal of Honor winner Sammy Davis; the last local survivor of the USS Indianapolis; a Tuskegee Airman; a Women's Air Service Pilot; and other front-line veterans of World War II up through Korea, Beirut, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bolstered by classic photos and archived military footage, these soldiers' unvarnished stories come together into a fascinating piece of Indiana's history.Visit the Site
August 12, 2014 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Military veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of it are receiving some help. The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday that has awarded more than $4.6 million in homeless prevention grants to more than 60 counties in Indiana. It says the grants will serve approximately 1,350 homeless and at-risk families as part of its Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. The grants going to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives will provide services to very low-income veteran families living in or moving into permanent housing. Veterans and their family members will receive help obtaining VA benefits and other public benefits outreach and in some cases temporary financial assistance.Visit the Site
"Whether it's debate over the role of the military in the middle east or how to improve the health care system for veterans, the consequences of sending men and women into dangerous situations is on the front pages just about every day. One example: the complex and long term impact of traumatic brain injuries," says host Barbara Lewis. Click here to listen to the rest of the story.Visit the Site
July 25, 2014 As part of an ongoing WFYI Veterans Coming Home initiative, WFYI’s Leigh DeNoon reports on one Hoosier veteran who has turned to public art as a public awareness campaign to lift the veil from an invisible epidemic – veteran suicides. Magnus Johnson served three tours of duty –first in the regular Army as a Private Combat Engineer in Ramadi, Iraq, and then as a Special Forces Staff Sergeant Green Beret in Afghanistan. But, after 8 years in the service and those three combat tours, he crashed when he got home. “You know, it dawned on me, okay, you know this is what they’re talking about. Transition. I kind of underestimated it. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I thought that I would adapt. When you’re still in and then you’re home on leave and such, it’s one thing,” Johnson said. “But then when it’s completely over, you start to realize that your brain is kind of rewired more for adrenaline, for risk for different proper responses to your environment. Think of it like driving a corvette and suddenly you hit a brick wall. That momentum, it’s done. It’s finished. It’s stopped.” One fifth of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and depression, hindering the transition back to civilian life. For Johnson, coming home meant coming to terms with the past, and making sense of the present. “I’m not a Green Beret, I’m not in the military I don’t have a mission, I’m not with the men and women I trust,” he said. “It’s over. Get a job. Go do - this. But I just didn’t care.” And on top of that, Johnson started losing military friends to suicide. He finally found a creative outlet for his stress after befriending Brown County artist, metal and stone sculptor Jim Connor. Connor taught him to weld and work with different metals. Using his hands and refocusing his mind on creating art led to an epiphany. Why not invite other vets to help create large public art pieces – to bring much needed attention to veteran issues? And so, about a year ago, the organization Elder Heart was born. The first of their large public art projects will be dedicated Saturday across from the courthouse in Nashville – Indiana’s tourism hotspot that draws an estimated 3 million people each year. “Art is a mechanism to get involved in your community to make something that’s going to last a long time – that’s going to shape the culture of place you live in. Art can be beneficial – I mean, I love it – but it’s not the sole healing factor,” Johnson said. “A lot of it is participation, helping others, sharing the story, telling your story. Think of every veteran who’s been a part of this project is associated with it that plaque that tells 3 million people what’s going on.” At 20 feet tall, and at a prominent intersection on Nashville’s main road, the sculpture “Soaring” is hard to miss. Its 22 large, colorful fall leaves represent the average number of veterans who commit suicide each day. Jim Connor designed “Soaring”, while several veterans volunteered alongside Magnus Johnson, artists and Brown County residents – to create it. “I think the whole art experience is also very healing for these guys to work on things. Because it starts dialogue among them, you know, that I’ve been privileged to hear. It’s made me more aware of what’s going on and really to care about it,” Connor said. “To really look at the issue and – it’s opened up some really – discussions I think that I would have never had in my lifetime with people about what we do as human beings and how we try to heal as human beings.” In keeping with their efforts to bring awareness to the staggering veteran suicide rate, Elder Heart’s next large public art piece is to be delivered in September to Rhode Island for a memorial honoring Rob Guzzo, a highly decorated Navy SEAL who took his own life. The dedication ceremony for the sculpture “Soaring” in Nashville, Ind. will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday at 10 N. Van Buren Street. Click here for information about the Veterans Coming Home initiative and for veteran resources.Visit the Site
July 23, 2014 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new hall of fame for Indiana military veterans is seeking nominations for its first class of inductees. The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame says it expects to induct the first honorees around Veterans Day at Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park in Lawrence. It says up to 15 veterans will be honored for military service achievements and community contributions. To be eligible, a nominee must have been born in Indiana, entered military service in Indiana, or lived in Indiana for at least eight years. It says it will consider veterans of all branches of the U.S. military, living or deceased. Nominations will be accepted through Sept. 1. More information is available online at imvhof.com.Visit the Site
WFYI hosted a screening of "Coming Back with Wes Moore" on Wednesday, Sept. 3. with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly. After the screening, Sen. Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger of the Indiana National Guard spoke with the audience about veterans issues.Visit the Site
Leigh DeNoon -- Listen to the story here. A few years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 Andrew Schnieders, a high school music teacher in Avon, decided to join the Indiana National Guard. “Here I was, 34 years old, semi accomplished, family in the making, you know, had a 5 year-old and a 3 year-old and things are going well, but we’re in this war," Schnieders said. In 2009, Schneiders, with the Army branch of the Guard, was sent on a 13-month deployment to Balad, Iraq with the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade. The stress of combat and the constant grind of 12 and 14 hour days – including a 10-month stretch without a single day off – took a toll. “You’re getting shot at and you’re getting mortared. We got mortared all the time. That becomes the norm. We made a joke about it," Schnieders said. "When you first get there and they yell incoming over the system or whatever and the C-ram’s going off you’re running for the bunker. Two months in, you walk to the bunker. Three months in, five months in, you’re just taking a shower through it and if you get popped you get popped, whatever. You get this complacency and this numbing sensation sometimes of what’s going on around you.” Schneiders was about halfway through his deployment when the U.S. announced an end to combat and a more intent focus on training Iraqi forces. The less intense pace gave him more time to think – and more time to feel. “I started noticing a change – especially in my aggression – things got dark. And at first it was just like –you know, you just accept it. You know it’s coming. It’s not a surprise – but when you can’t shake it off and then everyday gets worse and that violence comes out in you, maybe, I know a lot of people experience that and go through it," Scnieders said. "I know through therapy that I wasn’t alone in those thoughts. But at the time I had to deal with it myself because I’m all I had.” He also had his creativity. Schneiders began putting pencil to paper, finding solace in the sketches he drew of his surroundings. “You know, even though you’ve got a big concrete blast wall in front of you, you’re still seeing the scenery change and the colors and things and then you start noticing that. And then you start drawing what you’re seeing and filling that void and that time with the creativity part of it and allowing that to come out," he said. "You know, making objects on paper and having that realization of there’s still beauty left in the world.” When his tour ended, Schnieders returned to a once familiar world – but now everything “normal” - like cell phones, socializing and driving in traffic - felt foreign and overwhelming. “You either want to be normal, so you fake your way out of it. Or, you just want to hide it and try to move on with life," Schnieders said. "But if you don’t address it, it doesn’t. I mean, maybe for some people it does. But for me, there came that time where I had to start addressing the issues and facing them.” Schnieders signed up for group art therapy at the Indianapolis VA Hospital – a pilot project spearheaded by Herron School of Art and Design associate professor and art therapist Juliet King and the VA’s Dr. Brandi Luedtke. Schnieders discovered illustrating his troubled Iraq experiences with art and then talking with his fellow vets about it was very healing. “It might be very dark or depressive and you’re just getting it out on the paper or constructing it with you hands. In our group therapy, some guys and girls wouldn’t say a word they’re quiet the whole time. But when we would get to the end and we would share – some of the emotion that they are putting into that project was like overwhelming at times. You’re like, “Wow, they’re really going through that,” Schnieders said. "And then, how neat was it to see them express that in art – you know – being creative with it. But even more so, getting it out - getting on that healing path. That was motivating for me.” Art therapy is much more complex than just drawing a picture. Juliet King, the director of Herron’s Art Therapy program, says art therapists are licensed mental health counselors trained to understand how different art materials, like paint and clay, help people express different emotions and traumas – things they might not even be able to verbalize. And they’re trained to understand metaphor and symbolism as it’s connected to non-verbal communication. “What art therapy has the capacity to do is assist and support the non-verbal communication through the use of materials and media," King said, "and then through practice be able to attach words to what those feelings are and develop more of a cohesive and safe narrative to understand their experience.” Schnieders wants to continue healing and live in the present. He credits art therapy at the VA with helping him on his journey. The teacher in him hopes by sharing his story with other service members will inspire them to reach out and find their path to healing. This story was produced as part of the “Veterans Coming Home Project.” Learn more about the project at wfyi.veteranscominghome.org.Visit the Site
Listen to the story here... Over the past few months, WFYI’s Leigh DeNoon has been collecting the stories of veterans healing the wounds of war through art making. Meet Navy veteran Kris Bertrand, who was sexually assaulted while in the military 25 years ago and has suffered bouts of depression for much of her life. For Bertrand, shaping a piece of clay at the potter’s wheel is an act of transformation. “You can’t think. I mean, I can hold a conversation with you while I’m on the wheel – but I’m not thinking about – it doesn’t dwell up negative imagery for me,” Bertrand said. “This gets me through the day – this helps me feel better. You know, I wish I’d had this a couple of years ago.” Kris Bertrand joined the Navy right out of high school – mainly as a way of escaping her abusive parents in Minnesota. After boot camp in Florida, Bertrand spent 4 years at the 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego. Bertrand says back in those days, her commanding officers verbally harassed the women sailors. She was also sexually assaulted by men she dated while stationed there. “I had a situation where I actually was drugged. But you can’t – if you try to report it, it’s, “You got yourself into it. You put yourself into that situation. It’s your fault. You deal with it,” she said. "And unfortunately, these things don’t happen just one time. It can happen multiple times. Unfortunately, for me it was also multiple times. I wanted to make it through my enlistment and leave and get out of there.” Life outside the Navy wasn’t better. She tried living at home again, but the traumatic memories of childhood and the abuse she’d endured in the service drove her out. Between hospitalizations for depression, she sought relief in military homeless programs in Wisconsin and Missouri. And then, nearly a decade out of the Navy came a phone call, and a turning point. “I had a really good friend, her and her husband had just moved back to Indiana, and they’re like, “Well why don’t you come out here? We’ll help you find an apartment. See if your job will transfer you. We’ll help you move.” So, I did. And again, it was another escape – but, this time it was a better escape,” Bertrand said. In Indiana, Bertrand landed jobs with state agencies. First, with the Department of Workforce Development helping disabled veterans and then with the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2008, she received the Hoosier State’s highest honor for women, the Indiana Torchbearer Award. It recognized her efforts as an advocate for Indiana’s women veterans. When she lost her job in 2010, Bertrand went into a tailspin – one that only started to slow when she discovered art and ceramics. “I also find it therapeutic just to throw a piece of clay. You know, just to literally throw it. Like, before you put the clay on the wheel you have to wedge it so you’re getting all the air bubbles out. So you have to literally beat this clay up and I find that’s been very therapeutic.” The director of Herron School of Art and Design’s Art Therapy program, Juliet King, says that’s because art is intrinsically therapeutic. “Engaging in the creative process is something that typically is going to be a life enhancing experience for you," King said. "It gets your blood moving - it gets your brain working in different ways. It helps you relax, it helps you get distance from what it is that you might be living with in your life at the time.” King says art therapists are masters level counselors trained to use art to help clients find ways to express things they might not be able to say with words. Bertrand says her counselor is not an art therapist – but she applauds the positive results of her art making… “Ceramics has been – she said that, you know, she agreed, it’s probably been the best thing that helped me.” Today, you can find Bertrand at a potter’s wheel, shaping clay to cope with past experience that’s often felt out of her hands.Visit the Site
Surviving spouses of service members who died on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001, can now apply for the Fry Scholarship under newly expanded eligibility criteria, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced. Eligible spouses can receive to up to 36 months of the full Post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes a tuition-and-fee payment, monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies. The VA will begin accepting applications by mail on Nov. 3, 2014.Visit the Site
Listen Here Leigh DeNoon Many veteran advocates have been waiting since July for the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs to hire a new Women Veterans Coordinator. That’s when a law took effect authorizing the position that will serve as a champion for the growing number of women veterans in the state. More than 35,000 women veterans live in Indiana, and women make up the fastest growing segment of the veteran population. Lisa Wilken, an Air Force veteran and the women’s liaison for Indiana AMVETS, says with women serving in combat – the veterans are having more issues and need to connect to appropriate resources. “When it comes to disability compensation, we see women veterans receiving a lower compensation rates than our male counterparts – when their conditions are very similar," Wilken said. "We also see a rise in homelessness of women veterans. A woman veteran is nine times more likely to be homeless than a non woman veteran.” According to a report by the American Legion, many female soldiers don’t identify as veterans or know what benefits they are eligible to receive. Iraq war veteran Christy Lee Vickers followed in both parents’ footsteps to serve in the Army, and saw the gender divide first-hand in her family. “My father is now retired medically from the Army and my mother never considered herself a veteran until I got back from Iraq and I kept telling her, 'You served, you count, you’re a veteran,'” Vickers said. Retired Navy nurse Lori Turpin is the Hendricks County Veterans Service Officer. She helps veterans of all ages and from all conflicts fill out paperwork to get appropriate benefits. She says there’s a definite need for a State Women Veterans Coordinator. “I help veterans everyday. And I have other Service Officers calling me and say, 'Can you help a female veteran?' because they know that somebody would be more comfortable talking to me than someone else," Turpin said. "And I’m spread thin because I’m there by myself.” Community advocates also see the need for a state coordinator and have been trying to take up the slack. Lorraine Marshall is an Air Force Desert Storm veteran with Sister Soldier Network. “We have a passion for veteran women that are homeless with children. Because we feel like they are one of the most underserved populations," Marshall said. "We have facilities for veterans that don’t have children – but it’s really hard pressed to find those with children accommodation.” Advocates like Lisa Wilken say they appreciate the law establishing the women veterans coordinator job, but they weren’t happy with a last-minute wording change that they say gives the state wiggle room to eliminate it. "It’s important that that position be permanent and that’s why we’re seeking to complete our legislation this year so that the position of State Women Veteran Coordinator can’t be done away with by this administration or any administration in the future,” Wilken said. State representative Karlee Macer of Indianapolis sponsored the bill, and says she supports legislative wording changes to make the position permanent. The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs says interviews for the job are underway now. Macer expects a final selection by mid January.Visit the Site
This 30-minute WFYI documentary tells the inspiring stories of local veterans who are using art to help transform their war experiences into hope and healing. Josh Bleill lost both of his legs in Fallujah, but finds great peace in his art therapy experience of dancing. Andrew Schnieders' drawings helped him better understand his feelings. In this special, you will also meet a scientist who is exploring the science behind art therapy. And you’ll see how veterans are transforming their uniforms into art paper. This project is in partnership with Herron School of Art and Design and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.Visit the Site
Indiana has over 33,000 women veterans and the State has hired a veteran from Grissom’s 434th Air Refueling Wing to be the new Indiana Women Veterans Coordinator. In the 25 years since she enlisted, Senior Master Sgt. Laura McKee watched the male dominated military open up more to women. Her career began in transportation, then was the only female jet engine mechanic, and for a while she was the only female refueler. “So sure, I welcomed another female boom operator coming in," McKee said. "It’s like, yes! Finally!” McKee says a lot of Hoosier female veterans don’t take advantage of services that are available to them because they don’t identify themselves as being veterans. “The number one thing to realize is that you have been in the military," McKee said. "You deserve these benefits.” McKee understands there are times when a woman will seek out another woman for advice – as in the case of military sexual trauma. “It’s more comforting - and have their feelings in the situation validated by saying, 'I have help for you,” McKee said. One of McKee’s goals is to reach out through the web. She encourages all women veterans to go to www.IN.gov and register and get connected to resources. Meanwhile, legislation to tighten language to keep the Indiana Women Veterans Coordinator position from being eliminated at some point in the future passed the Indiana Senate but has stalled in the House.Visit the Site
Women veterans of all ages are invited to join this free memoir-writing workshop designed to help them craft their military stories through prose or poetry. Led by Shari Wagner, a published writer and instructor for the Indiana Writers Center, each two-hour session will include prompts and models, in-class writing activities, discussion, and feedback. Women at all levels of writing experience are welcome. It’s only necessary that they have the desire to develop their writing skills and share their stories. The best work from each veteran will be published in a book by the Indiana Writers Center and celebrated at a public reading in April. This 12-session class, running from October 2015 until March 2016, will meet the first and third Tuesdays of each month, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, 304 N. Senate Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Dates: October 6 & 20; November 3 & 17; December 1 & 15; January 5 & 19; February 2 & 16; March 1 & 15 Class size is limited to twenty participants. To register, contact Shari Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Indiana Writers Center (IWC) educates, inspires, connects, and supports Indiana writers working at all levels and in all genres. It recognizes the power of stories and advocates for writing and literature as essential to a community that values clarity of communication, honors diversity, and fosters tolerance and compassion. Sponsored by: Indiana Writers Center in partnership with Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Veterans Antiquities, and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.Visit the Site
The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame (IMVHOF) has named its first group of honorees, which will be inducted during a ceremony on November 7, 2014. The IMVHOF did a statewide call for nominations in June, resulting in 60 applications. Sixteen military veterans with Hoosier ties were selected for outstanding service achievements or military and community contributions. For the valorous military service category: Gary D. Brewer, Sr.* Worthington, IN Robert H. Butler, Jr.* Indianapolis, IN William E. Butler* Indianapolis, IN Charles B. Garrigus* Indianapolis, IN Richard E. Goodwin Greenfield, IN Ronald E. Gray Palm Bay, FL Charles W. Lindewald* LaPorte, IN Johnny J. Miller* Argos, IN Joseph E. Proctor* New Whiteland, IN Fredrick L. Spaulding Fishers, IN Robert J. Williamson* Vevay, IN For the combined military and community service category: Allen E. Paul Richmond, IN James E. Koutz Boonville, IN Robert G. Moorhead* Indianapolis, IN Donald W. Moreau Center Point, IN James R. Sweeney II Indianapolis, IN The first induction ceremony will take place on November 7, 2014 at the Garrison at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence, IN. Tickets can be purchased online at https://imvhof.eventbrite.com *posthumously awardedVisit the Site
RecruitMilitary Veteran Job Fair - Indianapolis Local & National Companies Hiring Military Veterans A special job fair, connecting hundreds of veterans with veteran-friendly employers is coming to the Indianapolis area on Thursday, December 4th.EVENT DETAILS: