Veterans: Help improve reporting on veterans

Jeff Jones
Engagement Editor
Public Insight Network
Justin Hayes, left, and Matt Coast compete in a mixed martial arts bout during fight night at the Spartan Academy gym inMesa, Ariz. Both men are combat veterans who spent time deployed in Iraq. (Photo by Brandon Quester for PIN)

Justin Hayes, left, and Matt Coast compete in a mixed martial arts bout during fight night at the Spartan Academy gym in Mesa, Ariz. Both men are combat veterans who spent time deployed in Iraq. We learned about their gym from other veterans who answered our questions about the modern veteran experience. (Photo by Brandon Quester for PIN)

We’ve been writing a lot about veterans around here. So are journalists all over the country. Some are stories of rocky readjustment. Some are stories of a successful return to civilian life. Some are just good stories.

Our reporters are working on a batch of stories about a new generation of veterans on college campuses thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If you served in Iraq or Afghanistan, your story of reintegration helps us understand this topic better. If you’re a veteran of any war working a claim through the V.A., we want to understand your situation.

Listed below are seven questionnaires meant for certain groups of veterans. Please take a moment to see which sets of questions apply to you.

When you answer, your responses are private to our newsroom. We won’t share or write about your story without your explicit permission. A reporter may call you to find out more. Our work so far has appeared on Marketplace, NPR and the New York Times website as well as right here at PublicInsightNetwork.org.

And let’s be clear: we do not just want to hear about injury, mental illness, slow services and personal struggle. There are important stories to tell about those topics and we will continue to do just that. But we also want to know about how your service is helping you at school, or in your job. We want to know what lessons you’ve brought back from overseas and how you talk with your friends and children about your experience. America is learning to work alongside and serve a new generation of servicemen and servicewomen. Your experience can inform journalism that helps us all understand this moment in our nation’s history.

Here are the specific topics we’re exploring right now and how you can help, followed by some of the insight we’ve already gathered:

Photo shared by Raymond Camper

(Photo shared by Raymond Camper)

“Actually, what I left in Iraq was a pocket [U.S.] Constitution. I had developed this really good relationship with this one Marine, and we talked about lots of things. He had revealed to me one day that he had never actually read the Constitution and I was like, you know what, here you go…” –Raymond Camper (right) of Minneapolis served one tour in Iraq as a sergeant in the Army National Guard. Read more.

“I don’t doubt the female solder’s ability to fire a gun; I doubt the military will treat her as an equal.” –Spc. Norma Briggs of Texas, served in the Army in the 1980s. Read more.

(Photo shared by Jonathan Cuha)

(Photo shared by Jonathan Cuha)

“I am a 26-year-old college student, where my classmates are 18. I am just starting my life, after I have lived a complete one already.” –Sgt. Jonathan Cuha (right), of Salem, Ore., served as an infantryman in the Army from 2005 through 2009, during which he was deployed to Iraq. Read more.

“I have been diagnosed with PTSD related to my service. Leaving the service medically (disabled) is demoralizing in the fact that a career in the military was cut short, as well as facing future employment discrimination or being an employment risk.” –Cpl. Bryan Theis of Salem, Ore., served as a Marine from 1990-1995, during which he was deployed overseas.

“I had an outburst on a base one night, was thrown in the brig for 118 days and given an OTH [other than honorable discharge]. I came from an extremely abusive home. … I learned from counciling years later that I had PTSD before I even joined the service, let alone discharged in this fashion. I’ve moved on and healed my wounds and have a great life, but it’s a thorn in my side that I feel was not deserved.” –Dale Pople of Clearwater, Fla., served in the Navy from 1987-1988.

If none of these topics resonate with your experience, or if you want to tell us more: please take a moment to tell us about the modern veteran experience.

If you’d prefer to share your story directly with one of our reporters, you can contact Jeff Severns Guntzel at JSGuntzel@americanpublicmedia.org or Samara Freemark at SFreemark@americanpublicmedia.org.

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Jeff Jones Engagement Editor
Public Insight Network

Jeff Jones is the Engagement Editor for the Public Insight Network. He’s worked for Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media since 2003, including producing and directing MPR’s “All Things Considered” with host Tom Crann from 2006 to 2010. He has edited hundreds of broadcast interviews, but the most memorable ones feature “regular folks” with surprising stories to tell.

Jeff strongly believes that places have stories, too. So he created MPR Sound Point, a mobile phone-based audio tour of interesting places in Minneapolis and Duluth that gives listeners a chance to “talk back” via the PIN.