Veterans Chronicles

Radio America

Veterans Chronicles tells the stories of America's greatest heroes in their own words. read less
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Episodes

Cpl. Don Graves, USMC, WWII, Iwo Jima, Part 1
01-05-2024
Cpl. Don Graves, USMC, WWII, Iwo Jima, Part 1
Don Graves was born in Michigan in 1925 and his family struggled mightily during the Great Depression. He was 16 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He immediately ran down to the U.S. Marine Corps recruiter's office to sign up. He was too young, but on his seventeenth birthday, Graves officially became a Marine. Nearly three years later, Graves was among the Marines invading the critically important island of Iwo Jima.In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Graves shares his vivid memories of learning about the attacks at Pearl Harbor, his intense training in San Diego, and his sudden new assignment as a flamethrower operator. He also shares, in great detail, what it was like to make the amphibious landing on Iwo Jima under heavy Japanese fire. Graves then describes the difficulty getting off the beach and what it took to fight to the top of Mt. Suribachi.Finally, Graves tells us about the historic flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi that was immortalized in the Joseph Rosenthal photo and again in the sculpture ot the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.In our next edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Graves will detail the fighting in the weeks of fighting that followed the flag raising - from the brutal effectiveness of Japanese mortars to the power of his flamethrower and from enduring the loss of so many friends to the death of just one in his own foxhole. He will also reflect on the legacy of the Greatest Generation nearky 80 years later.
CPT Kelly Elminger, U.S. Army, Iraq, Afghanistan, Paralympian
27-03-2024
CPT Kelly Elminger, U.S. Army, Iraq, Afghanistan, Paralympian
Kelly Elmlinger was a three-sport athlete in high school. She excelled in cross country, basketball, and track. After considering military service, she decided to keep playing sports at the next level, but she quickly decided college was not for her. That's when she joined the Army and became a combat medic, eventually with the 82nd Airborne Division, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Later, she became a nurse and then a cancer patient herself. Yet even after losing a leg, Elmlinger persevered and represented the U.S. at the Paralympic Games just a few years later.In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Elmlinger shares how the 9/11 attacks changed the trajectory of her military service and how her combat medic training suddenly became much more real. She also describes her service in Afghanistan, meeting and connecting with the Afghan women, and what the Afghan men thought about her.Then she explains how different and how much harder the same job was in Iraq, why there was often little combat medics could do to help, and the painstaking efforts she and her teammates took to to find some personal effect to present to the families of every fallen service member.Elmlinger then recounts her decision to become a nurse and work with wounded veterans in San Antonio and how that work helped to prepare her to be a patient there as she battled cancer in her leg. And finally, she updates us on how she became an elite adaptive sports athlete - representing the U.S. at the 2021 Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo. And she'll do it again this summer in Paris!
CMDCM Leon Walker, Jr., U.S. Navy, Attack on the USS Stark
28-02-2024
CMDCM Leon Walker, Jr., U.S. Navy, Attack on the USS Stark
Leon Walker, Jr. grew up in a family full of Army and Marine Corps veterans. He tried to enlist in the Marines but the recruiter didn't want to be bothered on his lunch hour. Within minutes, Walker joined the U.S. Navy. He was initially assigned to serve as a deckhand on the fast frigate USS Reid, but on his first deployment he started learning how to navigate. For the next 21 years, he served as a navigator on many different deployments before rising to the rank of command master chief.On his second deployment, Walker and the USS Reid were in the southern Persian Gulf in May 1987, when another fast frigate, the USS Stark, was struck by two missiles fired by an Iraqi pilot in the northern part of the gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. The Reid raced to help and arrived the next day to find the Stark smoking and listing. Thirty-seven Americans were killed on the Stark and 21 others were injured.In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Walker takes us step by step through the very difficult work of searching the Stark for the remains of those killed in the missile strike and tells us what he saw and did while on board. He also explains how he became numb do his duties that day and how it created post-traumatic stress that was not diagnosed for decades. Finally, Walker reflects on other deployments to the Persian Gulf and what it was like to navigate through the Suez Canal and the very rough waters of the Bering Sea.