Armed Services

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U.S. veterans coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq can face major challenges re-entering civilian life. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer updates the latest research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

We also hear from an Iowa veteran drawing attention to PTSD and the problem of veteran suicide by running across Iowa. Joshua Jorgensen will run the whole distance across the state wearing a military-style gas mask. Jorgensen says veterans might not know where to turn as they return to communities. 

trump
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, President Trump said transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. He writes the presence of transgender people in the military would cause "tremendous medical costs and disruption." 

Breanna Walton

Returning from three combat tours in Iraq, native Iowan Alex Sutton forges a new identity as a farmer, hatching chicks and raising goats on 43 acres in North Carolina. While he finds at least partial relief through farming, he cannot shake the lingering traumas of war. His life after war and subsequent struggles with PTSD are documented by director/cinematographer Alix Blair in her documentary Farmer/Veteran: A Combat Veteran's Fragile Struggle to Overcome Trauma and Transition to Life as a Farmer.

U.S. Army RDECOM / Flickr

Exhaustion, shock, panic, disease, extreme heat, and horrific noise -  these are some of the less talked about challenges of military combat.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with celebrated science writer Mary Roach about her new book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. In it, she explores the aspects of war no one makes movies about - the quirky but essential science behind staying alive in combat.

A description of Grunt from the publisher, W. W. Morton & Company, Inc.:

Brandon Pollock/Waterloo Courier

Sometimes the transition from being a solider to being a civilian is more difficult than any battlefield assignment.  Readjustment sometimes means trouble finding a job and in some cases no permanent place to live.

There will soon be more options in northeast Iowa for veterans who have completed their service and need a safe place to live while they contemplate what’s next.

From the time he was discharged from the US Army back in 1990, life has been struggle for 46 year old Jeff Skinner.

BuzzFarmers / Flickr

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced an initiative to end veteran homelessness.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with IowaWatch.org reporter Thomas Nelson about his latest reporting on homelessness within Iowa's veteran population; Mark Brown, an outreach veterans advocate for Willis Dady Prevention and Shelter; and an Iowa veteran who used to be homeless.

Flickr / Shane Clements

Two central Iowa veterans were awarded Purple Heart medals on Tuesday. The honor is for service members who are wounded or killed in combat. 

Don Coderre of West Des Moines served in the Army as a combat infantryman from 2004 to 2007. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Corderre was injured while clearing explosives from highways.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Sen. Chuck Grassley and a bi-partisan group of senators are calling on Congress to pass legislation that reforms the way sexual assault cases are prosecuted in the military. 

The Military Justice Improvement Act would strip the decision of whether a serious crime goes to trial from the chain of command, and place it with trained military prosecutors.

Grassley says it’s clear the Defense Department can’t be trusted to prosecute cases, in light of new information that shows the Pentagon deceived Congress on how military sexual assaults are handled.

Staff Sergeant Chad D. Nelson, Iowa National Guard

Hundreds of positions in the Iowa National Guard have opened to women for the first time in the Guard’s history, and women have already begun to enlist in combat roles.   

That’s according to Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, Major General Timothy Orr, who delivered his annual Condition of the Guard address to a joint session of the Iowa House and Senate.

Orr says last month’s announcement from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opening up combat roles to women is having an effect in Iowa.

Christopher Gannon

Iowa State University students have designed what they call a 21st century outpost, a barracks design created to alleviate post-traumatic stress in soldiers. 

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with ISU interior design professor Lee Cagley and graduate student Maricel Lloyd about the effectiveness and practicality of the designs. Iowa veteran Nathan Drake also joins the conversation.

General Dynamics Electric Boat / U.S. Navy

There is a new USS Iowa. The Virginia-class nuclear-power fast-attack submarine was named Wednesday afternoon at Iowa State University’s Memorial Union.  It is the third naval vessel to have this name.

General Frank Grass/flickr

Gov. Terry Branstad has ordered a review of security at all Iowa National Guard facilities including recruiting stations after last week’s fatal shooting of Marine and Navy personnel in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

The Chattanooga shootings began at a recruiting station and ended at a military base, killing five people. In several states governors ordered the arming of guardsmen and women at recruiting stations and other facilities after the fatal attack.  

IPR's Pat Blank

A French military honor has been presented to 94 year-old Cleon Wood of Cedar Falls. Wood was a gunner on B-17 bombers that flew more than 30 missions over Europe in World War II.   Wood received the French Legion of Honor for his participation in the June 1944 D-Day invasion and other American air missions in France.  Counsel General of France for the Midwest, Vincent Floreani presented the medal to Wood in a weekend ceremony. Floreani says, "these people are so humble, they don't think they did anything special, they say they were just doing their job, but they are heroes." 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A new museum exhibit opens this morning in Johnston, honoring veterans of the Vietnam War. It was financed by an appreciative Iowan who was unable to serve because of football injuries. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports.

Gene Gabus auctioned off his family’s antique cars in donating $250,000 for the Gold Star Military Museum’s Vietnam War display. Upset by the disrespect shown to returning veterans, Gabus says the exhibit is meant as a tribute.

Working from "Home"

Feb 17, 2015
Photo by Mark Tade

The Branstad Administration’s Home Base Iowa is helping military veterans find new jobs across the state.  The program launched last May is adding both prospective employers and employees at a good pace.

Home Base Iowa is on a mission to provide educational and employment opportunities to veterans already here or because of the downsizing of the Department of Defense, those who may be considering Iowa as a place to live and work.

Ken Crouse / Fall of Saigon Marines Association

The last two Americans killed in the Vietnam War, including an Iowa man, will be memorialized at the site of the old US Embassy in Saigon.   


Not many of us are aware of an event that occurred in 1840 in Bellevue, Iowa, a town along the Mississippi River in Jackson County, south of Dubuque.  It was there on main street that a massive frontier gunfight took place, between outlaws and vigilantes.   The shoot-out was between a posse led by sheriff W.A. Warren and a group of men led by W.W.

For years Bruce Kindig of Davenport did his best to keep the history of the Civil War alive as a re-enactor and a history teacher. 

The National Guard

Recent clashes between police and civilians in Ferguson, Missouri have led local community members to consider the military-style equipment given to local police departments.

Home Base Iowa Update

Aug 12, 2014
Submitted photo

    Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill in May designed to provide more benefits for Iowa's military veterans. At the same time, companies and communities have pledged to make Iowa veteran friendly by offering incentives to live and work here.  It's hoped that those who have completed their service or have left the military as the result of downsizing by the Department of the Defense will find a new "home base"  : Iowa.

Iowa National Guard cameramen

Iowa's worst air disaster is being commemorated this coming weekend. It was 25 years ago when United Flight 232 wobbled into Sioux City for a crash landing that killed 112 passengers. Our historic sound project remembers that tragic day with audio recordings going back to July 19, 1989. Reporter Durrie Bouscaren contributed to this story.

Courtesy of Kain Schilling

 Former Army Spec. Kain Schilling says he owes his life to his friend and comrade former Army Sergeant Kyle White, “I could never repay him. We’re good friends... He knows I’m extremely thankful and that my family is eternally grateful.”

Schilling lives in Palo, Iowa and attended a White House ceremony earlier this week where his friend and was awarded the United States Military’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor. He talks with host Ben Kieffer about an ambush in Afghanistan in 2007 by Taliban forces when White saved his life and the lives of several others in their unit.

Janet Crum

Serving in the military changes one's perspective on life, but often it also alters the way they face death.  Ben Kieffer speaks with Deborah Grassman, the CEO and co-founder of Opus Peace.  Opus Peace  is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help people work through trauma.

Prior to Opus Peace, Grassman worked as a nurse practitioner for three decades at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was also the director of the VA's hospice program and personally took care of over 10,000 dying veterans.

Geoffrey Fairchild

Today on River to River, we bring you six stories.

First, University of Iowa President Sally Mason meets with the Board of Regents for a special meeting this afternoon to discuss her remarks on how the university handles sexual assault allegations. Iowa Public Radio correspondent Dean Borg tells host Ben Kieffer what to expect out of the meeting.

Voice of America

Russian President Vladimir Putin put 150,000 Russian combat troops on high alert, rattling nerves in an already unstable Ukraine.  The move along Ukraine's border caused U.S.

Lea VanderVelde

In 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that a slave could not sue for his freedom. Many call this ruling the worst Supreme Court decision of all time. 

Durrie Bouscaren

Host Ben Kieffer covers a number of topics in a roundup of the week's news including a conversation with Iowa Public Radio's Cedar Rapids reporter Durrie Bouscaren on how Iowa military contractors have been affected by the s

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

If a second federal sequester happens in January, the US military is anticipating another $52 billion in defense spending cuts. In Iowa, the National Guard is finding ways to save money by reducing the amount of work that is performed by contractors. We get more from Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren, in the third and final installment of our series on military contracts.         

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

As the Department of Defense scales back military spending abroad, domestic arms manufacturers are seeing drastic changes in their revenues. For the first installment of this three part series, Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren profiles one of Iowa’s smallest defense contractors—the creator of a critical component for M-1 tanks.

U.S. Embassy New Delhi

Iowa Public Radio listeners share their memories of the death of President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.  Also historian Tom Schwartz of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum joins the conversation to share his own reflections of the event and to discuss the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

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