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KUNC's Colorado Edition: Veterans Day Stories Of Courage And Love

Navy pilot Robert Wideman on the day in 1973 he was released from capitivity in Vietnam.

This week's Colorado Edition is devoted to stories of veterans and their families -- tales of torture, courage, perseverance and love.

KUNC’s military and veterans reporter Michael de Yoanna guides us on a journey that spans several wars, from Vietnam War to Afghanistan.

First, a brief history lesson: Armistice Day, which recognized the sacrifices of those who served in World War I, became a national holiday in 1938. Years after World War II, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day to honor all of America’s veterans.

We spend some time with Israel del Toro who will one day be a veteran. But his story is one of staying in the military as long as he can despite being severely injured by an IED in Afghanistan. The man known simply as DT has some simple advice that we should all take to heart: "Never effing quit."

We then meet retired Navy pilot Robert Wideman of Fort Collins. He was one of hundreds of prisoners of war who came home from Vietnam in 1973. We found something he's never seen before: grainy old video of the day he was released from captivity.

A little-known agency in the U.S. Department of Defense works to find the remains of military personnel missing or killed in action. The agency has had some successes, including identifying the remains of Navy gunner’s mate William Helstern who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Results have been frustratingly elusive in other cases, like the one close to the heart of Greeley's Jane Adams. She hopes the agency will find the remains of her first husband, who served in the Vietnam War and never came home -- one of the difficult cases facing the agency.

Suicides among veterans occur at a much higher rate compared to the rest of the country. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs is searching for solutions, the rate remains essentially unchanged. Some believe there’s a link to how tough it is for some to get mental health care from the VA, including soldiers who’ve been accused of misconduct and discharged without access to health benefits – an issue we’ve reported on extensively.

Listen to the 30-minute version of this episode.

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our intro music is "Remember Me" by Colorado musician Kalatana. Our outro music is “Never Forget” by Peterloo Massacre. Other music in this episode:

  • David Hilowitz – “Time Passing” (del Toro story)
  • Meydn – “Glimpse of Eternity” (Wideman story)
  • Junya Nishimura – “Fragile Rain” (Jane Adams story)
  • Incidental music from J. Harrison B. & the Bumbles (Adams story)

This episode was hosted and produced by assistant news director Erin O'Toole and Michael deYoanna. Digital editor Ashley Jefcoat handles the web. News director Catherine Welch and managing editor Brian Larson contributed to this episode.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a weekly look at the top stories from our newsroom. It's available every Friday on our website, as well as on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcheror wherever (RSS) you get your podcasts. You can hear it on the air every Sunday at 9 p.m. on KUNC.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.