Tucson – StoryCorps

A Woman Providing Life-Saving Aid at the Mexico-Arizona Border Shares Her Story

Maria Ochoa is a 70-year-old grandmother who has walked the Arizona desert well over 100 times providing water and aid to migrants who have crossed the border from Mexico. The humanitarian aid she and other Tucson Samaritans provide is legal, as long as they don’t transport migrants or venture onto private land.

She came to StoryCorps in Tucson with her friend and fellow volunteer, Alma Schlor, to share her connection to the work.

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This summer, Maria will have been doing this work with the Tucson Samaritans for seventeen years. She was one of the founders of the organization in 2002.

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Top photo: Maria Ochoa poses by the Arizona/Mexico border wall, south of Tucson, Arizona. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Alma Schlor and Maria Ochoa at their StoryCorps interview in Tucson, Arizona on April 20, 2016. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Maria Ochoa walks one of the trails she monitors with the Tucson Samaritans. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.

Originally aired June 21, 2019 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Since as far back as the Revolutionary War, LGBTQ service members have been discriminated against in various ways by the United States military. On this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we bring you stories from veterans who were kicked out of the service, as well as some who stayed in the closet to keep their jobs.

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First, we’ll hear from Sue McConnell (above left) and Kristyn Weed, who both served during the Vietnam-era and came out as trans after leaving the military.

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Next, we’ll remember Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, who received national attention for outing himself as gay in 1975 while serving in the Air Force.

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Lastly, Air Force veteran Jeri Dilno and Navy veteran Joseph Patton take us back to the 1950s and early 60s, when they were given undesirable discharges due to the assumption that they were “homosexual.”

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Top photo: Artwork by Michael Caines.
Second photo: Sue McConnell (left) and Kristyn Weed at their 2018 StoryCorps interview in Tucson, Arizona. By Mia Warren.
Third photo: Leonard Matlovich, who appeared on the cover of Time in 1975 to challenge the military ban on gay service members.
Fourth photo: Jeri Dilno with her friend Andrea Villa in 2013 at their StoryCorps interview in San Diego, California. By Cambra Moniz-Edwards.
Fifth photo: Joseph Patton, who recorded in Santa Monica, California with StoryCorps in 2019. By Jud Esty-Kendall.
Bottom photo: Joseph Patton in 1956 when he was a member of the US Navy. Courtesy of Joseph Patton.

Released on May 21, 2019.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Overture” by Patrick Wolf from the album Sundark and Riverlight
“Step In, Step Out” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Crab Shack
“Watermarks” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Crab Shack
“Untitled #9” by Yusuke Tsutsumi from the album Birds Flying in the Dark
“Cast in Wicker” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut
“Paloma” by Fabian Almazan and Linda Oh

This podcast is brought to you by supporters of StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit organization, and is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Best Friends and Vietnam-era Vets on Their Shared Sisterhood

Sue McConnell and Kristyn Weed are best friends and Vietnam-era veterans. Although they didn’t serve in the war together, they share a story of courage — on and off the battlefield.

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At StoryCorps, they talked about their other shared sisterhood.

Top photo: Sue McConnell (left) and Kristyn Weed at their StoryCorps interview in Tucson, Arizona. By Mia Warren for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Sue McConnell (left) and Kristyn Weed are regulars at Denny’s in Tucson, Arizona, where the best friends say they often talk for hours. Courtesy of Kristyn Weed.

A version of this story aired June 30, 2018, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. It was rebroadcast on August 17, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Chris López and Gabe López

Chris López always knew there was something different about her youngest child, Gabe. Assigned female at birth, Gabe felt like he was a boy.

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Gabe was always more comfortable in clothing traditionally worn by little boys — cargo pants and superhero shirts — but switched back and forth between these outfits and those often worn by little girls. Just after his seventh birthday, he convinced his parents to let him cut off his long hair and get a mohawk — a haircut he had been wanting for years. Around this time period, Gabe started dressing only as a boy and answering exclusively to “he”.

At first, Chris was concerned that Gabe, being so young, might change his mind. She was scared of how people would treat him as he transitioned. But after seeing how Gabe responded to the changes in his hair and clothing, she felt confident that he had made the right decision.

Gabe, who’s nine years old now, has been attending the same school since kindergarten. In the fall of 2016, when he started third grade, he began having others refer to him by his preferred gender pronouns —”he” and “him” — for the first time.

In 2015, the López family attended a camp for transgender, gender creative, and gender non-conforming youth in Tucson, Arizona.

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Gabe and his mother came to the StoryCorps MobileBooth to talk about how that camp transformed his life.

A version of this broadcast aired May 1, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, and was rebroadcast on March 3, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Middle photo: Gabe López. Courtesy of Chris López.
Bottom photo: The López family.

Mary Reed and Emma McMahon

In the summer of 2010, following her junior year of high school, Emma McMahon left her home in Tucson, Arizona, and traveled to Washington, D.C., to work as a page for her local Congresswoman, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Following her internship, she returned home to her family, but without one important memento from her summer—a photo of herself with the congresswoman.

Looking to rectify the situation, her mother, Mary Reed, learned months later that Rep. Giffords would be holding a constituent meet-and-greet in the parking lot of an area shopping center and made plans for her family to attend and finally get that coveted photo.

That was the day, January 8, 2011, that Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a crowd outside of the Safeway critically wounding Gabby Giffords and shooting 18 others—six of whom were killed.

Mary, one of those who were shot that day, came to StoryCorps with Emma to remember the day she shielded her daughter from a gunman.

McMahon&GiffordsOriginally aired January 8, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above photo: Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Emma McMahon at a dinner for survivors of the 2011 shooting held at the Giffords home on January 8, 2014 (courtesy of Emma McMahon).
Top photo: Mary Reed and Emma McMahon, this month, in the parking lot of the Casas Adobes Safeway where the shooting took place.