Military Voices Initiative – StoryCorps

“We Didn’t Have Time To Be Afraid”: Two Army Nurses Reflect On Serving At The Front Lines

Army veterans Diane Evans and Edie Meeks arrived in Plaiku, Vietnam on the same day in February of 1969. Both were from Minnesota, and they built an almost instant friendship. And they were “hooch” neighbors, so bunked right next to each other.

Diane Evans in Long Binh, Vietnam in 1968. Courtesy of Diane Evans.

In 1969, Plaiku was one of the hot spots of the war, and Diane and Edie worked as nurses on the front lines. They saw casualties of war firsthand, but they never shied away from their job of protecting their patients.

They came to StoryCorps to share their story of service.

Diane Evans treating wounded soldiers at the 36th Evacuation Hospital in Vung Tau, Vietnam in 1968. Courtesy of Diane Evans.
Top Photo: Diane Evans and Edie Meeks at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Diane Evans.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired November 5, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

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Without Memory: A Love Story From Two Veterans

Matthew Perry wanted to be a Marine since he was 6-years old. He enlisted around 2005, and by 2008 he was serving in Afghanistan. 

One day, while on duty, he was hit by three IEDs in the course of a single day. But the lasting impacts of his traumatic brain injuries wouldn’t be felt until years later.

In 2010, while on leave from the Marines, a friend would introduce him to a college student named Helen. The two became inseparable after that, and would marry a couple of years later. 

But in 2014, Helen got a call from Kings Bay Naval Base – where Matthew was stationed at the time – with news that something was terribly wrong.

The hands of Helen and Matthew on July 15, 2014, while Matt was in the hospital in Brunswick, GA after his seizures started. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 

Capt. Helen Perry and Sgt. Matthew Perry came to StoryCorps to talk about what happened next.

Helen, Ethan, and Matthew on Jan 5, 2022 at Fort Clinch State park in Florida. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 
Top Photo: Helen and Matthew Perry after Helen’s promotion to Captain in July of 2015, at the Brooke Army Medical Center. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired October 1st, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

50 Years After Watergate, The White House Staffer Who “Kept His Integrity Intact”

On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at  the Watergate building in Washington, D.C. One was a former employee of the CIA.

As the senate select committee began looking into President Richard Nixon’s involvement, a Republican staffer blew the lid off that investigation by revealing a treasure trove of evidence. 

A few years earlier, at Nixon’s request, Alexander Butterfield — a deputy assistant to the president and former Air Force Colonel — had overseen the installation of a voice activated taping system that secretly recorded all of Nixon’s conversations in the Oval Office and other key locations. Butterfield was told the elaborate recording system was for the purpose of gathering archival material for the Nixon Library, but no one who met with the president was made aware of the devices. Those recordings would eventually provide evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the attempted cover-up of the Watergate break in. The president resigned shortly after.  

Butterfield spoke with his friend Tom Johnson about what led to his testimony.

Top Photo: Alexander Butterfield testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee on July 16, 1973. By the Associated Press. 
Middle Photo: Alexander Butterfield and Tom Johnson at their StoryCorps interview in Austin, TX on April 27, 2016. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps. 

The original interview took place through a partnership with the 2016 Vietnam War Summit, hosted by the LBJ Presidential Library and The University of Texas at Austin. This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired September 30, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Her Father’s Piano And A Page From WWII History

Loretta Berning’s father, Air Force Pilot Major Harold Martin, spent most of World War II training other pilots stateside. But just after the war he was stationed in Germany, flying relief supplies to Allies trapped behind Soviet lines in Berlin.

Harold was also an accomplished musician, playing saxophone in Big Band Jazz groups. Loretta and her younger sister grew up in a house full of music and were expected to learn the piano from a young age.

Harold Martin (5th from the Left in the back row) posing for a photo with Purvis Henson and his orchestra at Macdill Air Force Base in 1947. Photo courtesy of Loretta Berning.

While in Germany, Harold had found a rare and precious object that he had flown back to the States after his tour. It was a Victory Vertical Piano, made by the Steinway and Sons piano makers. In 1942 Steinway was tapped to make war-proof pianos for troops in the field.  In total they made about 2,500 pianos  built to be strong enough to be dropped out of supply planes, resistant to the humidity of the Pacific, and small enough to fit on submarines. Each piano was delivered by parachute from a supply plane.

Loretta Berning, age 15, pictured with the family’s Victory Vertical piano. 

When Harold brought the piano home after the war, it was one of the few to make the roundtrip journey back to the States. For Loretta, it was a lifelong reminder of her father and his love of music.

Top Photo: Loretta Berning at her StoryCorps interview in Mandeville, LA on May 11th, 2022. By Katie Fernelius for StoryCorps.

Originally aired July 30th, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A Son Took Up His Distant Father’s Instrument to Honor His Military Service

Army Sergeant First Class Jodi Walz served in the United States Army band for 30 years — 12 of them in active duty and 17 years in the reserves. Music defined his life, in and out of military service.

Gena Gear and her son, Ryan Walz, have vivid memories of Jodi on stage playing trumpet, and how much he enjoyed performing as a singer. Gena remembers him during the initial years of their romantic relationship as a quick-witted, charming man, and also as one who seemingly lost his way after leaving active duty. 

Jodi Walz with Ryan (right) and his younger brother Tyler in Minnesota around 2005. Courtesy of Gena Gear.

But despite his struggles, his family honors his pride for and commitment to the military.

After Jodi died from COVID in November 2020, Ryan came to StoryCorps with Gena to reflect on his father’s service and legacy, and talk about his decision to play taps at his funeral.

Jodi Walz in the reserves in Minnesota, around 2012. Courtesy of Gena Gear.

 

Top Photo: Gena Gear and Ryan Walz at their StoryCorps interview in Minneapolis, MN, on May 5, 2022.

Originally aired May 28, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition. 

So They’re Not Forgotten

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, we’re thinking about sacrifice, and the bonds that form between people who literally go through war together; on the battlefield and at home.

Artwork by Lyne Lucien.

Released on May 10th, 2022.

Vietnam Separated Them, But These Brothers Stand Side By Side

Ron Amen grew up in Dearborn, Michigan in the 1950s. He belonged to a large and close family, including his brother, Alan. They were raised to look out for one another, and it was a lesson they took very seriously.

Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.

In 1965, when the U.S. started committing combat troops to Vietnam, Ron was in one of the initial waves to be drafted for battle. This was the first time the brothers had been separated. But despite the distance the war brought, Ron and Alan kept their bond alive.

Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.

The brothers came to StoryCorps to reflect on their relationship, and to remember the effect war had on them — and their brotherhood.

Top photo: Alan and Ron Amen at their StoryCorps interview in Dearborn, Michigan on August 10, 2012. By Erin Dickey for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 23, 2022 on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Even Though He Wasn’t A “Tough Guy,” This Purple Heart Vet Made His Mark In Vietnam

As a child, Richard Hoy dreamed of becoming a hero, like the ones he saw in Hollywood movies. Growing up sheltered from the outside world, he wanted a life of adventure. So when he was 18 years old, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

By 19, he was serving as a medic in Vietnam, and what he encountered in the field challenged his notion of being a “hero.” 

Richard Hoy (left) at his new assignment after recovering from a gunshot wound to his abdomen, and a concussion by a grenade. He is applying a fresh dressing on a patient shot with an AK-47. Circa 1971, Fort Ord Hospital, CA. Courtesy of Richard Hoy.

One day, his unit surrounded a village in Vietnam, and Richard remembers seeing a North Vietnamese soldier staring at him 50 feet away. Presented with the opportunity to shoot, he didn’t. He questioned if he was cut out for war. 

Five decades later, he came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Angel Hoy, to share how being a medic on the front lines of war shaped him.

Originally aired March 5 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Top Photo: Richard and Angel Hoy in Seattle, WA on Feb. 22, 2022. Courtesy of Richard Hoy.

This interview was recorded in partnership with KUOW as part of StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative.

The First And Second In Flight — Two Black Women Make Coast Guard History

The U.S. Coast Guard currently has more than 800 pilots. They perform crucial search and rescue missions, often in adverse weather situations.

For 215 years, not a single one of them was a Black woman. 

That was, until Jeanine Menze joined in 2005, becoming the first.

Cmdr. Jeanine Menze, stationed at Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu, Hawaii in 2006. USCG photo by PA2 Jennifer Johnson.

Two years later, she met La’Shanda Holmes and introduced her to the world of flight. La’Shanda would then go on to earn her own wings, becoming the second.

Lashanda Holmes at Air Station Los Angeles. U.S, in 2010. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers.

Lieutenant Commander La’Shanda Holmes and Commander Jeanine Menze came to StoryCorps to remember that time, and reflect on the impact they’ve made in each other’s lives.

By 2014 there were five Black women pilots in the Coast Guard, nicknamed “The Fab Five”. Since then, that number has gone up, adding a sixth…with more waiting in the wings…

From left to right are Cmdr. Jeanine Menze, MH-65 helicopter pilot Lt. Cmdr. LaShanda Holmes, HC-144 fixed wing pilot Lt. Angel Hughes, MH-60 helicopter pilot Lt. Chanel Lee, HC-144 fixed wing pilot Lt. Ronaqua Russell. 2019. Photo by Lt.Cmdr. Ryan P Kelley.

Originally aired October 2, 2021 on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Top Photo: From left to right, Jeanine Menze and La’Shanda Holmes, at La’Shanda’s flight school graduation at NAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL, in 2010. Courtesy of La’Shanda Holmes.

A Life of Honor

A gay veteran recalls serving in silence.

Joseph Patton

When Joseph Patton joined the Navy in 1955, he had to serve in silence. At the time, the LGBTQ community could not be open while in the military. Despite being the “perfect sailor,” Joseph was kicked out of the Navy under the assumption that he was homosexual. At StoryCorps, Joseph remembers the pride he took in his service and the beauty and joy that love has brought to his life.

Listen to Joseph’s original StoryCorps interview.

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