Veterans

Benjamin Slane / Milwaukee VA

Prescription painkillers have a notorious reputation in the veteran community. In response to an opioid scandal in 2016, Wisconsin's Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center has reformed the way they treat pain.  

"We were in the middle of a crisis," says U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie, who recently visited the Tomah VA and Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center (Milwaukee VA Medical Center). "Traditionally [people use] pain medicine and go off on their own, into the shadows. Tomah broke the mold on how we think about that."

Audrey Nowakowski

Editor's note: This piece originally aired on May 29, 2017. We are revisiting it in honor of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day observations started early for some in Milwaukee with the official dedication of the Captain Lance P. Sijan Memorial Plaza in front of the General Mitchell International Airport on May 26th.

Gene Russell / United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Robert Wilkie was appointed as the Secretary of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last July. Wilkie grew up at Fort Bragg in a military family and still serves as an officer in the Air Force Reserve. As secretary of the cabinet level department, he’s responsible for ensuring the VA serves veterans’ physical, mental, and emotional needs to the best of its ability.

A Wisconsin combat veteran was driving down the highway in February when he suddenly found his name, license plate number and mental health information broadcast on the radio, on television and posted on electronic billboards across the state.

"It felt very violating. Because I didn't want everyone who doesn't know me to know I have problems. It made me want to crawl into a bigger hole," he told NPR.

But the "Green Alert" might have saved his life.

New Book Gathers Stories Of Wisconsin Veterans

Dec 6, 2018
courtesy Veterans Story Project

Dec. 7, 2018 marks the 77th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the event that tipped the scales and brought the United States into World War II. Sixteen million Americans served in World War II — more than 300, 000 from Wisconsin. 

But the youngest people who fought in World War II are already 90 years old, and their first-hand stories are fast disappearing. Milwaukee journalist Mark Concannon has been among a group of people working to make sure the stories of Wisconsin veterans — of all wars — are preserved. 

veterans-day-armistice-day-milwaukee
Chuck Quirmbach

Banks and post offices are closed Monday for the federal Veterans Day holiday. 

About 100 people gathered Sunday night at Milwaukee City Hall to remember that Veterans Day was previously known as Armistice Day and dedicated to peace. Another message was that world peace remains elusive.

It's been 100 years since the end of World War I, a conflict in which millions died. Paul Moriarty of the Milwaukee chapter of Veterans for Peace says the war was bloody through its last morning.

Maayan Silver

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects hundreds of thousands of veterans nationwide. Many find ways to cope through counseling and support services, but some are finding volunteering to be a useful tool in further healing. 

William Sims knows this first-hand. He's a Vietnam combat veteran and says he had, what would now be classified as, PTSD symptoms when he returned from battle.

Teran Powell

A fellowship program designed to match veterans with prospective employment opportunities could soon take root in Wisconsin. It’s called the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program.

A collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation held an information session about the program at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center on Monday.

Andrey Popov / Fotolia

The Zablocki VA Medical Center and UW-Milwaukee have discovered they make good partners in providing military veterans with a wide range of services. For the past few years, the Zablocki VA has teamed up with UWM's Military and Veterans Resource Center, or MAVRC, to hold a veterans mental health summit. The sixth annual summit takes place this Saturday, June 23 at UWM's student union.

Maayan Silver

Memorial Day is more than just a day off of work. 

Veterans living at the non-profit Vets Place Central on 33rd and Wells spoke about what the holiday means to them.

Mount Liptak

Ever been to Antarctica? Maybe not, but if you find yourself there, make note of a peak known as Mount Liptak. When Milwaukee filmmaker Ryan Allsop found out that that very mountain is named after his uncle, Navy veteran Lester Liptak, - he knew he had a story to share.

"When I heard the final story about how he had a mountain named after him on Antarctica, being a filmmaker and one who tells a lot of stories and loves writing - it just clicked," says Allsop. "It was just the final thing, 'this is a movie right here, this is incredible.'"

Photos: Milwaukee Soldiers Home, Circa 2017

Nov 10, 2017
Mitch & Charlie Teich

For more than 120 years the Milwaukee Soldiers Home served veterans of conflicts from the Civil War through Vietnam. But for the past 28 years, the original 1867 building, called Old Main, has stood vacant, even as it remained an iconic piece of the skyline west of downtown.

Today, the building is closed to the public, and the few visitors who are allowed inside are required to wear hard hats and are offered respirators to guard against the dust, mold, and peeling paint.

Feast of Crispian

In a neon-lit rehearsal room in the basement of the UW-Milwaukee theatre building, a troupe of actors is blocking a scene from Othello. As Shakespeare’s words fill the room, you begin to notice the unit patches on the actors' jackets, the pins on hats.

Screenshot from Skip Navigation LinksWisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Video

The Wisconsin’s Veterans Affairs secretary took the hot seat at the State Capital on Tuesday. He updated lawmakers on conditions at the Veterans Home in King, after an audit found widespread nursing shortages and worker dissatisfaction there. 

Some legislators are concerned that patient care at the nursing home could be threatened. The VA Secretary promised his department is working aggressively to tackle the problems.

photo courtesty of the Veterans Administration

Like most Veteran’s Administration hospitals and clinics around the country, the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee sees a majority of male patients. Women make up just a little over 15 percent of current active and reserve military members across all services and about 10 percent of the total US veteran population. But especially now that women can and do serve in combat, it’s crucial that the VA respond appropriately.

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