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Colorado Edition: Stories Of Veterans, Veterans-To-Be And Old Military Tech

Michael de Yoanna / KUNC
On Veterans Day, stories of veterans and veterans-to-be.

Today, on a special Veterans Day episode of Colorado Edition, we explore the civilian-military divide. We also check in on the stories of those who have served as well as a few who are still serving. Plus, we take a closer look at how the military is contending with a new threat: climate change. 

Exploring The Civilian-Military Divide

Credit Sgt. Anthony Bryant / Courtesy Department of Defense
Courtesy Department of Defense
Lena Scott, Sgt. Joseph “Joey” Collette’s daughter, traces her finger over her father’s name inscribed on a memorial stone at the Mountain Post Warrior Memorial at Fort Carson, Colorado.

KUNC's military and investigative reporter, Michael de Yoanna, has travelled far and wide for stories this year, crisscrossing Colorado and beyond. One theme that showed up in several of his stories is what's called the civilian-military divide. That's where most Americans are unaware of the sacrifices that those who serve in the military make. 

One place where this theme came up was Fort Carson Army post in Colorado Springs. His story explores what it means for troops when a fellow soldier dies

Credit Picture from 'Who is Sam the Soldier?' / Courtesy Mascot Books
Courtesy Mascot Books
'Who is Sam the Soldier?" tells the story of what it’s like to work and even relax in the Army.

Michael also reported on what veterans and veterans-to-be are doing to increase public awareness about military service. For instance, combat veteran Erin Morris wrote a children's book called Who Is Sam The Soldier?  

Janine Davidson, the president of Metropolitan State University of Denver (and a former military pilot and undersecretary of the Navy), is also studying the divide with a non-partisan group: the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service.

"It's a huge issue, in democracy... the degree to which society is connected to its military," Davidson says.

Afghanistan veteran Ryan Lahnham is working on a book as he encourages fellow veterans to write their own stories. 

Diversity is also a theme in Michael's reporting and the military has made strides in that regard. It's more diverse in many ways than ever before and that has implications for the demographics of the nation's future veterans. Yet for transgender troops, the military recently walked back its promise to accept them, following a push by President Trump. Michael spoke with Army Captain Alivia Stehlik at Fort Carson, who transitioned in 2017, about her experiences and how she is able to stay in. 

How The Military Is Preparing For Climate Change

The U.S. military's Tin City Long Range Radar Site in Alaska as seen on the road that leads up to it.
Credit Michael de Yoanna / KUNC

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Another theme in Michael's reporting was how old, 20th century tech is still relevant to the military in 2019.

WWV's 100th anniversary cake.
Credit Michael de Yoanna / KUNC

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One such story is tucked away quietly amid the farms of Northern Colorado. 

In October, the WWV radio station in Fort Collins celebrated its 100th anniversary. In the event of a disaster, the station could be called upon as part of a safety net for the country. 

The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant is located on the Army's Pueblo Chemical Depot. The high-security plant is tasked with destroying 780,000 mustard gas shells and mortars stored here by December of 2023.
Credit Courtesy Pueblo Chemical Agent - Destruction Pilot Plant

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The North American Aerospace Defense Command also relies on old technology — radars located in the Arctic, thousands of miles away from NORAD headquarters in Colorado. There lies a new threat to national security: climate change. Melting sea ice, which poses problems for radars, is just one of the military's climate-change headaches. Another one is desertification, where the climate is getting drier and more prone to drought and wildfire.

In Pueblo, Michael visited one of the Army's top ten sites at risk for climate change: the Army's Pueblo Chemical Depot where hundreds of thousands of old chemical weapons must be destroyed under international treaty in the coming years. 

Medal Of Honor Ceremony

Medal of Honor recipients
Credit Courtesy of Brad Hoopes
Clockwise from top left: Lt. Leila Morrison, Staff Sgt. Philip Daily, Lt. Armand Sedgeley, Capt. Joe Graham, 2nd Lt. William Powell, Staff Sgt. Harry Maroncelli.

Six Coloradans this year were pinned with France's highest award: the Legion of Honor Medal. 

Those honored were

  • Army Lt. Leila Morrison of Windsor, for her work during World War II taking care of troops as shells exploded around her and, later, caring for prisoners freed from the Nazi's Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany.
  • Staff Sgt. Philip Daily of Brighton, a B-17 tailgunner who was shot down on his 25th mission, a prisoner of war and survivor of a forced winter march.
  • 2nd Lt. William Powell of Fort Collins, a B-24 pilot who became a prisoner of war after his plane went down.
  • Staff Sgt. Harry Maroncelli of Fort Collins, a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, who beat the odds and made it to his required 25th mission.
  • Lt. Armand Sedgeley of Lakewood, a B-17 Flying Fortress bombardier who was shot down off the coast of Corsica.
  • Posthumously, Capt. Joe Graham of Fort Collins, a tank commander remembered privately. His son, Jack, accepted the honor for his dad. 

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

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music this week by Blue Dot Sessions:

  • "Quiet Still" by Darby
  • "Never Forget" by Peterloo Massacre 
  • "Even Dreams of Beaches" by Resolute

Colorado Edition is hosted by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1) and Henry Zimmerman @HWZimmerman), and produced by Lily Tyson. The web was edited by digital editor Jackie Hai. Managing editor Brian Larson contributed to this episode.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a daily news magazine taking an in-depth look at the issues and culture of Northern Colorado. It's available on our website, as well as on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can hear the show on KUNC's air, Monday through Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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Stories written by KUNC newsroom staff.