Military Voices Initiative Archives - 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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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. 

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. 

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.

For Those Left Behind: An Afghan American Marine Reflects On His Homeland

In 1980, Ajmal Achekzai fled Afghanistan during the onset of the Soviet–Afghan War, leaving his birth city of Kabul behind. He was only five years old.

The next time he would return would be in November of 2001. U.S. Marines were the first major ground forces sent to Afghanistan after 9/11. Ajmal was among them. 

Cpl. Ajmal Achekzai talks with two Afghan locals on December 10, 2001 at the perimeter of a patrol base in Southern Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Joseph R. Chenelly/USMC/Getty Images.

Twenty years later, Ajmal is witnessing the return of Taliban control. He sat down with StoryCorps to remember where he came from, the dire uncertainty of Afghanistan’s future and the love he has for its people.

Ajmal Achekzai with his mother, in July of 2001, at the Salt Lake International Airport. Courtesy of the Achekzai family.
Top Photo: Ajmal Achekzai at his StoryCorps interview in Costa Mesa, CA, on August 19th, 2016. By Liyna Anwar for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices and Tapestry of Voices Collection 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 September 03, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Things That Go Left Unsaid: Remembering A Son and Brother — The First U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman was born at Andrews Air Force Base, where his father was stationed at the time. Like many military families, they moved around a lot during his childhood. This instilled an adventurous spirit in Nathan, while it challenged his older brother, Keith, who preferred more order.

The brother’s would go on to lead very separate lives — while living under the same roof. 

Nathan Chapman, Lynn Chapman & Keith Chapman, March 1981 in Contra Costa County, CA. Courtesy of the Chapman family.

In 1988, at age 18, Nathan sat his parents, Lynn and Wilbur down to ask for their blessing to enlist. It would be the beginning of a significant and highly decorated 12-and-a-half year career in service, leading into the Special Forces, where his speciality was communications.

Two months after September 11th, Nathan would volunteer for a special mission. On January 4th, 2002, he became the first American soldier killed in combat, during the War in Afghanistan. 

Lynn and Keith Chapman came to StoryCorps to remember a complicated dynamic between brothers, and the things that sometimes go left unsaid.

Keith Chapman and Lynn Chapman at their StoryCorps interview in Frederick, MD, on August 20, 2021. For StoryCorps. 

Nathan Ross Chapman is survived by his wife, Renae, his daughter Amanda, his son Brandon, his parents Wilbur and Lynn Chapman, his brother Keith Chapman, and his half-brother Kevin Chapman. His other half-brother David Chapman has since passed away.

Top Photo: Nathan Chapman in Haiti, 1995. Courtesy of the Chapman family.

Originally aired August 28, 2021 on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

We Can Do It: How One Woman Found Independence During WWII

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Connie Rocha was the second of six siblings. She left school in the 8th grade to help provide for her family. Connie was 16 years old when the United States entered World War II, and like many women, she felt drawn to contribute to the war effort.

Connie Doria Rocha during her employment at Hickam Field in Hawai’i. Courtesy of Connie Rocha. 

Connie began working at Kelly Field repairing airplanes as a sheet metal mechanic. After a year she applied for a transfer to another repair depot in Hawai’i, where she continued to work as an aircraft mechanic till the end of the war.

Women Mechanics known as “Kelly Katies” assemble for a photo. January 1944, at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas.

In 2008 Connie came to StoryCorps to record her memories for the Military Voices Initiative, to talk about the independence she gained through her work during World War II.

Top Photo: Connie Rocha during her StoryCorps interview in San Antonio, Texas on February 18, 2008. By Rose Gorman for StoryCorps.

Originally aired July 3, 2021, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Now In His 80s, Gay Veteran Remembers Getting Kicked Out Of The Navy Despite Being “A Perfect Sailor”

When Joseph Patton joined the Navy in 1955, he had to serve in silence. At the time, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people could not be open while in the military. 

Decades later, at the age of 81, Joseph recorded for StoryCorps from his home in Santa Monica, California, where he spoke about his service and how he was eventually kicked out of the Navy due to the assumption that he was “homosexual.”

In the 1970s, Joseph fought to get his undesirable discharge upgraded to honorable, which then allowed him to receive benefits for his service.

Joseph died in 2020. He was 83 years old.

Top Photo: Joseph Patton, who recorded in Santa Monica, California with StoryCorps in 2019. Photo by Jud Esty-Kendall.
Bottom Photo: Joseph Patton in the mid-1950s, while serving in the US Navy. Photo courtesy of Joseph Patton.

Originally aired December 26, 2020, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

“It’s Okay to Be a Hero”: Remembering Justice Ginsburg’s Words

Sharron Cohen had no idea that at the age of 25, she’d find herself at the center of a legal battle with the potential to change women’s rights forever. In the early 1970s, Sharron was a newlywed Air Force Lieutenant who was denied the same spousal benefits offered to her male colleagues. So with the help of a lawyer named Joe Levin, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, she sued the federal government for discrimination on the basis of sex.

Photo: A young Sharron Frontiero (now Cohen) dressed in Air Force uniform in 1972. Courtesy of Sharron Cohen.

That lawsuit eventually came to the attention of a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, and then onto the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. Together, Levin and Ginsburg argued the case, which came to be known as Frontiero v. Richardson. It won in an 8-to-1 vote, and became one of the first successful sex discrimination cases in U.S. history. 

In December of 2020, Sharron came to StoryCorps in Massachusetts with her son Nathan to remember the late Justice Ginsburg.

Top Photo: (L) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with former plaintiff Sharron Cohen, her husband David Cohen, and son (R) Nathan on the steps of the Supreme Court building in 1999. Courtesy of Sharron Cohen.
Bottom Photo: (L) Nathan Cohen and his mother Sharron on the day of his wedding in 2013. Courtesy of Sharron Cohen.

Originally aired December 18, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.