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The story that Florian tells in this episode is literally the stuff movies are (and have been) made of. Whether or not you know the history of the USS Indianapolis, this is a story worth hearing.
Jimmy: Leaving a mark

Jimmy: Leaving a mark

2021-08-1909:47

A taxidermist who trekked alone through China and made it into a book called "Weird Wisconsin" -- those are some of the highlights of this wonderful veteran's story.
A lot of people have screwed up, royally, at least once in their lives. They've crashed cars, yelled at the wrong guy in a bar, fallen asleep on guard duty, cheated on their spouse . . . or worse. Sometimes, people dwell a lot on the screw-ups. But in Jeb's case, we hear more about what it means to deal with regret while moving on.
Kevin: Getting tattoos

Kevin: Getting tattoos

2021-08-0513:06

Many of the veterans we interview are very sick. Sometimes they're even in hospice care. Those patients are often very aware that the end is near. When that's the case, it can really shape what a veteran has to say about his or her life as a whole.
From sibling rivalries to birthday traditions, Alexis's story highlights the highs and lows of family life. Her story was written by a medical student, part of a growing educational trend of having future doctors and nurses interview patients and write up their life histories.
Life stories can move at a lot of different speeds. Sometimes, we'll get a "slow burner" - the gradual accumulation of years and relationships and jobs all add up to One Big Tale. Other times, life changes in a flash. Boone's life is one of those "flash" stories.
Rick's story takes several major turns, but one struggle he faced more than once was the struggle of being alone. There's the loneliness that comes from pain, and from being ostracized. And then there's the solitude some people might go looking for to heal up from the things that hurt them.
Marvin: Greetings!

Marvin: Greetings!

2021-07-0810:13

Everyone we interview has served in the military. But why did they sign up? It's a question we ask often. The answer featured in this episode of our podcast is priceless.
Some people search their whole life for work they love. How many of us know what we want to do before we're old enough to walk?
Do you remember the first time you saw your spouse? How did your upbringing shape how you raised your kids? Have you ever been seconds away from dying? In this episode, Mary revisits some of her life's biggest moments.
In his very long life, Joseph was many things. World War II veteran. Son. Father. Worker. Traveler. And he was also a pioneer who faced all kinds of resistance and discrimination during his nearly 10 decades on this earth.
Dale: 45 years later

Dale: 45 years later

2021-06-1409:40

This story is a good reminder of how "going off to war" isn't just a perilous situation for the combatant, but also for the family members back home.
We've heard a lot of war stories over the years from the veterans we interview for the "My Life, My Story" project. But because our project focuses on Veterans' entire lives -- and not just their time in service -- we also hear about first loves, broken hearts, and the secrets to long marriages. In this episode, we're bringing you a love story that has a little bit of all three.
The Korean War is often called "the forgotten war," but in this episode of the "My Life, My Story" podcast, we bring you the unforgettable story of Daniel, who was a prisoner of war in Korea for an astonishing 38 months.Daniel was one of hundreds of captured U.S. soldiers who endured what has come to be known as the Tiger Death March. He shared his story with us more than 60 years after his release in 1953.We're releasing this episode on Veteran's Day, and if you listen to the Daniel's story, you'll hear how significant the holiday is to him personally.Hearing stories like these can help us remember why it is we celebrate Veteran's Day in the first place. If you like this one, we hope you'll check out more stories in our podcast, which launched in September. We've collected over 5,000 stories since 2013, and our podcast has given us an opportunity to showcase some of our favorites.
For our last episode of the first season of the "My Life, My Story" podcast, we decided to record the story of the oldest Veteran we've ever interviewed. "Charlie" was nearly 108 when his story was written in the spring of 2020. That means he was old even for World War II veterans. By the time he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, he was already 32.There's something about Charlie's story that captures what our project is all about. His recall of events from 80 years ago is, of course, far from perfect. His version of events won't be found in history books. His story is subjective, a little meandering.But in about a thousand words, we learn enough about Charlie's life - about his parents, his military service, his wife, and his career -- to get an idea of what meant the most to him during his 108 years on this planet.We hope to share more of these imperfect histories with you in future seasons of our podcast. From our stockpile of over 5,000 stories, we've still got tales from a survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, from a Korean War POW, from Veterans who have struck it rich or been thrown in prison. Some ponder the meaning of life. Others just want to tell you the incredible story of how they found true love.Be sure to like and subscribe to the series wherever it is you listen to podcasts to make sure you get updates on future episodes of VA Presents: My Life, My Story.
When we ask veterans to tell us about their lives, some choose to avoid painful subjects. And that's just fine by us. The aim of "My Life, My Story" isn't to drag out confessions or extract difficult memories.Instead, our goal is to give Veterans a space to talk about who they are and where they come from. "What else do you want your doctors and nurses to know about you?" is a question we often ask. For some vets, the answer is: not a whole lot. "Let's just skip over my first marriage," one vet might say. "My time in Vietnam isn't something I like to talk about," says another.But for other Veterans, talking about tough stuff in their past is central to the interview. After all, rough patches are often the most formative periods in our lives.Veterans who've been through combat have asked to go into details precisely because they'd rather not have to tell the same old war stories, over and over, to their health care providers. "I'd rather just get this written down and then tell anyone who's curious to read my story."Something we've also heard many times: "It's OK, I'm used to talking about this."Something else: "This is the first time I've told anyone this."In this episode of our podcast, "Jess" opted to talk about traumatic events that happened to her -- and other women veterans -- while she served in the military. She also talks about working through those memories, how they shaped her, and how they led her to the career field she's in today.This episode discusses Military Sexual Trauma, or MST. For more information about the topic from the VA, check out this link: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/mentalhealth/msthome/index.asp
Tom: The Doctor Is In

Tom: The Doctor Is In

2020-08-3108:021

Most of the 5,000-plus Veterans we've interviewed for the "My Life, My Story" project aren't famous. In fact, when we enter someone's hospital room to ask if they'd like to participate, we usually know absolutely nothing about that Veteran. And we do that on purpose.Why? A couple reasons. First, we think it gives the Veteran free rein to talk about any aspect of their life that they want to share with their health care providers. That freedom creates a spontaneity, we think, that leads to better stories.Second, we like to think we don't have biases that spill into our interviews, but that isn't always true. An example: if you knew that a Veteran had just received a new liver because he was a lifelong alcoholic, would it cloud your perception of how he tells his story? Would you subtly point the interview toward his past struggles with alcoholism? Maybe not. But still, we want the Veteran to decide what to talk about, not us.Now and again, however, we interview someone whose history is already familiar to us. That was the case with Tom Every, a.k.a. Dr. Evermor, who we interviewed several years before his death in 2020. Dr. Evermor was a well-known artist in the Midwest, known for welding and shaping junkyard castoffs into wild, funny, often-towering sculptures. He'd been featured on TV shows and in magazines and documentaries.Funny thing, though: his interviewer didn't know that at first. It wasn't until Tom revealed his artistic doppelganger that the writer realized who he was talking to. Again, we think that led to a story very different from the typical features you'd read about "Dr. Evermor" in a magazine or newspaper. For more about Dr. Evermor, check out this website about his sculpture garden in Wisconsin. There were also articles published about him when he passed away in the spring of 2020 that you can read here and here.
Hank: Getting Focused

Hank: Getting Focused

2020-08-3109:521

A common theme that pops up in our stories is perseverance. Anyone who lives a long life will, of course, go through hard times at some point. But for many of the combat Veterans we've interviewed, hard times are thrust upon them at an early age.That was the case for "Hank", whose story we hear in this episode of the "My Life, My Story" podcast.As a Marine in Vietnam, Hank saw combat up close, and his re-entry to the civilian world afterward was also rocky.Hank's story shows that perseverance doesn't always happen in a straight line. His life - and his approach to getting through tough times - takes several turns over the decades. His journey includes a trusted dog, upended relationships, a successful career . . . and a photograph.Every once in a while, a Veteran's story like Hank's brings up the idea of talismans, or good-luck charms. People hold on to little objects to remember good times gone by, or to ward off future calamity, or both. Do you have an object like that? If you'd like to tell us about it, or if you'd like to reach out to us about this podcast, send us a note at vhamadmystory@va.gov. We'd love to hear from you.
Everyone we interview for the "My Life, My Story" project is, of course, a veteran. Some of them talk about war -- what they've seen in war, who they've lost, how it changed them. But at the core of almost every single one of the 5,000-plus life stories we've written since 2103 is love.A Veteran might focus on his or her love for a spouse. Another talks about love for a parent, a child, a brother, or a fellow soldier or sailor. Many talk about their love for their country, and how that informed their decision to join the military in the first place. Some talk about all of those loves, and more.But we also encounter a lot of stories about what happens when love is absent or disappears. Veterans have told us about what it feels like to get a 'Dear John' or 'Dear Jane' letter from your fiancée when you're halfway around the world. They've told us what it's like to be disowned from your family. What it's like to grow up in a place where no one seems to want you around, to be abandoned.In this week's episode, the Veteran, Toby, talks a lot about love, particularly near the end. And he talks openly about how much difference love can make in a person's life.
Steve: Mein Freund

Steve: Mein Freund

2020-08-3109:391

If someone asked you to tell your life story, where would you begin?For a lot of people, the answer to that question is "I was born in … "When we interview people, we often start there, too. "Where were you born?" is a perfectly fine way to begin a conversation. From there, Veterans might talk about where they grew up, who their parents were, where they went to school, when they got married, etc. In other words, they talk about their life chronologically, focusing on "milestone moments" along the way. We have a phrase for interviews that go like that. We call them "Just the Facts."A lot of Veterans we talk to are far less straightforward. They, like most of us, think in tangents, speak in anecdotes, and play hopscotch on the timeline as they recount the biggest moments in their lives. Writing stories from interviews like that can be harder than composing a "Just the Facts" life review. But those tangents and anecdotes can be gold when you're looking for a good story.In this episode of our podcast, "Steve" did something we truly found delightful: he centered his entire life story around a single friendship that spanned a lifetime. It was an unusual way to tell a life history, but we loved it. We hope you do, too.
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