Elizabeth Hash, a Kansas City Army National Guard recruiter, says being in the military fulfills her in a way she hasn't found anywhere else. That realization came after a peacekeeping deployment in Kosovo. "When I came home I was missing that and trying to find where I belonged.” She feels she found it in roller derby.
In New Orleans, we met artist and activist Brandan “Bmike” Odums, who spoke about serving his community through his art and how his father’s service as a Marine inspired him to service. As we wander the streets of NOLA, he talks to us about the value of public art, especially in “at-risk” places, and how he takes negative images and makes them positive.
The Armed Services Arts Partnership’s (ASAP) Comedy Bootcamp in Norfolk, Virginia, is a comedy writing and performing class for veterans, servicemembers, and military family members. We meet several veteran comedians and follow Isaura Ramirez, an Army veteran, who speaks about how comedy has helped her tell her story. This video contains sensitive language. Viewer discretion is advised.
Stacey Thompson, a Marine vet, was raped by her sergeant and discharged from the military when she reported it. After a decade-long battle, the military recognized its mistake and upgraded her discharge. Mosaic art and writing help Stacey work through her PTSD.
Mike Felker was a closeted gay man supporting Marines as a Hospital Corpsman in Vietnam. In the 1970s he came out but had to had to hide his status as a veteran. Mike’s experience moved him to help found Veterans for Peace. As a gay man and combat medic, he has an important perspective on recent events. We were with Mike at the Philly Pride Parade when he heard the news about events in Orlando.
Del Seymour, a Vietnam veteran, knows San Francisco’s Tenderloin district like nobody else in the city. Del was once homeless in city but today his friends call him "Mayor of the Tenderloin." Del founded Code Tenderloin, a community organization that helps veterans find employment in the tech industry, and serves on San Francisco's homelessness board.
Sean Bode says that he put his demons in a shoebox and kicked it under the bed. With a family and a job at Walt Disney World Resort, life seemed perfect. But not all demons stay put. Sean and his wife, Sarah, shared their story to help others understand what Disney and other companies can do to provide veterans with the support and tools needed to become loyal employees and community leaders.
Vietnam veteran Stephen Tennis finds joy in giving back to his community as a Corner Captain with the Safe Passage program in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, where he escorts children to their after school activities. “Just in case, when I go before St. Peter at the gates, I want to make sure that the ledger has something on the positive column,” Stephen says.
Justin and Darrell did everything together in Afghanistan until the day Justin lost his legs in an IED explosion. Five years later, Justin and Darrell reunite. Darrell explains the guilt he and other members of the squad felt when Justin lost his legs. Justin and Darrell’s story helps us look into the the powerful bond that veterans have with each other – one that’s hard to find when they return.
Nationwide, 46% of people who have been incarcerated find themselves in jail within 3 years of their release. For veterans who pass through the Phoenix Veterans Court, just 4% ever return. The Veterans Coming Home team spends time with program staff, judges, and veteran mentors and program participants to find out what makes this court so successful.