As New Yorkers welcomed the thousands of members of the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard arriving to celebrate Fleet Week 2012, Veterans Corner host Don Buzney talked with Captain Sara “Clutch” Joyner, a key coordinator of the event. Buzney interviewed Joyner on Pier 92, near the Intrepid, about the special significance of this year’s program. “Because it’s the bicentennial of the War of 1812, we wanted to have a bigger presentation,” said Joyner, a Navy fighter pilot and 23-year veteran. “The 1812 Navy marked the beginning — our birthplace — and we wanted to showcase and highlight what today’s Navy is all about.”
Before Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Seaver began his legendary career, his father was worried that the young Seaver lacked seriousness. “I really didn’t care about anything that didn’t have a baseball involved,” says Seaver. His father suggested that he join the Marines, and Seaver listened. “The United States Marine Corps changed my life,” Seaver tells Veterans Corner’s Don Buzney, and was a key factor in his development as a major league pitcher. “I don’t believe it would have been done without the Marines.” In 1963, he left active duty and enrolled in community college, and by 1967 he was a New York Met and the National League Rookie of the Year.
The HBO drama, “Taking Chance,” is based on the true account of a volunteer military escort officer who accompanies the slain body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown in Wyoming. The chairman and CEO of HBO, Bill Nelson, a Vietnam combat veteran, recalls his own experience escorting the body of his best friend home in October 1969. “There are too many stories of “Taking Chance,” says Nelson, “and I’ve experienced that firsthand.” Nelson joins The Veterans Corner host Don Buzney and talks of his own wartime experience, and HBO’s programming about the dedication and sacrifices of those who serve, including the critically acclaimed “Band of Brothers” (2001).
If you’re a New York City firefighter, you have to be a better one each day you’re on the job, says Sal Cassano, Fire Department Commissioner, and a Vietnam veteran and John Jay College graduate. “Every day that you come in,” Cassano says, “you have to learn.” The commissioner, who started as a rookie firefighter in 1969, sees the demands as similar to armed forces. “You have to train, train and train, just like we did in the military,” says Cassano, who joins Veterans Corner host Pat Gualtieri to talk about his career, being a veteran, and why he loves being a firefighter.
Early in World War II, Japanese intelligence had cracked every secret code the United States had devised. Seeking a different approach, the U.S. enlisted the help of 29 young Navajo men to form an elite unit — the Navajo Code Talkers. Using their Navajo language, they devised and spoke in a code in the Pacific battle theater that was never broken, protecting the advantage of secrecy for the U.S. military. Keith Little served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Code Talker from 1943 until after the end of the war, and joined Veterans Corner host Donald Buzney to discuss the legacy of the Code Talkers, his recent appearance on the HBO series “The Pacific,” and a new project — The National Navajo Code Talkers Museum & Veterans Center, which is currently under development. Little passed away on Jan. 3, 2012, soon after this interview was recorded.
Veterans who served during the Persian Gulf War (1990-91) have until Dec. 31, 2011, to file claims for “undiagnosed illnesses.” Ben Weisbroth, former deputy director of the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs and this week’s Veterans Corner guest, advises veterans who are suffering from a variety of ailments, including chronic fatigue syndrome, joint pain, and neurological, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal symptoms, to seek treatment before the 10-year deadline expires. “If these folks have not filed a claim for benefits or sought medical help at a VA facility, it might be a good time to do it now,” Weisbroth says. The number to find out about benefits and what symptoms are covered is 800-827-1000.
Chris Longo had dreams of a National Guard career, but his plans changed in 2008 when he suffered a spinal injury while serving in Afghanistan. Now Longo, who is a student at the College of Staten Island, works at the school’s Veterans Educational Transitional Services, where he helps vets apply to the college and for benefits. Longo was first attracted to CSI because of its proximity to his home and its vet friendly reputation. “This college was in the top 15% of military friendly schools in the whole country two years in a row,” says Longo.
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Returning veterans often face tough financial hurdles that prevent them from applying to college, but Ann Little, veterans’ advocate at the College of Staten Island Student Veteran Center, says the Post-9/11 GI Bill can help. It pays college costs and provides monthly living expenses as well — a major benefit in a rough economy. “Go back to school would be my No. 1 advice to any veteran,” Little says.
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Leaving the military and entering college can be unnerving for many veterans, adjusting to a new way of life. Don Buzney hosts Ann Little, graduate student and professional veterans’ advocate at the College of Staten Island Student Veteran Center. Little shares her experience as a vet and CUNY student and provides advice for veterans entering school, applying for benefits and joining the civilian workforce.
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