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Wreaths Across America

Wreaths Across

Meredith Ford, Hospice-Veterans Partnership of Southern Arizona (L) Gold Star Mother Marsha Moon (R)

Wreaths Across America will be placing wreaths on the graves of fallen warriors at over 1,200 cemeteries across the nation, abroad and even at sea.  Their mission is to remember our fallen US Veterans, honor those who serve and teach children about the value of freedom. American Warrior broadcasts live from one of these locations; East Lawn Palms Cemetery thanks to the generous underwriting support of the Hospice- Veterans Partnership of Southern Arizona.

Wreaths Across America was the brainchild of Morrill Worcester.  As a 12 year old paper boy, he won a trip to Washington and his visit to Arlington National Cemetery left a lasting impression.  In 1992 Worcester Wreath found themselves with an excess of inventory for the holiday season so Morrill arranged to have the wreaths placed on graves in an older part of Arlington that was receiving fewer visitors.  His tribute went on without much fanfare until a photo of the adorned graves hit the internet and calls came in from across the country.

Wreaths Across

Specialist Christopher Moon, US Army

Marsha Moon is the organizer of the East Lawn Wreaths Across America event. Her son Chris Moon was a first round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves and received a scholarship to play for the nation’s #1 ranked college program.  But Chris Moon was a warrior – and a patriot.  According to friends, Chris believed that real warriors competed on the battlefield so he chose to forego a professional baseball career to defend our nation.  He became an Army sniper. On July 13, 2010 Chris succumbed to wounds suffered while serving in Afghanistan.  He is buried in the Veteran section of East Lawn alongside 16,000 of his comrades in arms.

As a member of the American Gold Star Mothers, holidays were particularly painful for Marsha and her family. Laying a wreath upon her son’s grave assures that his name will never be forgotten. Volunteers who participate in laying a wreath are encouraged to speak the Veteran’s name out loud and thank them for their service.  Listeners can support this amazing program by making a donation toward the 2018 event or volunteering to help lay wreaths at their local cemetery.

Meredith Ford is Communications Manager for Case de la Luz Hospice. The Hospice-Veterans Partnership of Southern Arizona is a part of the We Honor Veterans program that seeks to assure that Veterans receive the support and dignity that they deserve at the end of life.  Meredith shares how hospice care supports families and caregivers. The majority of patients remain in the home surrounded by their family with training and support from their hospice provider. The partnership also gathers the stories of their Veteran clients and submits them to Library of Congress.

TAKEAWAY: “It’s never too late to give our American Veterans a heroes’ welcome home.”


Boulder Crest Retreat – Josh Goldberg

Boulder Crest Retreat’s motto is “Healing Heroes. One family at a time.”

Boulder CrestTheir innovative post traumatic growth curriculum has helped over 3,000 warriors and is showing amazing results.

Josh Goldberg, Director of Strategy for Boulder Crest Retreat shares more information about this pioneering initiative and how it is helping warriors, first responders and their families. Their programs are offered free of charge to participants.

After retiring from a 21 year career in the Navy, explosive ordinance disposal technician Ken Falke found himself regularly visiting the bedsides of fellow EOD warriors injured in the war on terror. These experiences led him to create the EOD Warrior Foundation and witness firsthand the desolation and frustration experienced by these personnel during their recovery in DC area facilities.

On occasion, he and his wife Julia would invite these warriors out to their home on 37 acres of Virginia pasture. In 2010 he came home to find his wife and a friend sitting at a table with 3 empty bottles of wine and a hand drawn diagram of a plan to convert their pasture into a retreat for these recuperating warriors. Boulder Crest Retreat was born.

Over 2.7 million warriors have been deployed since September 11th, a number equivalent to the entire population of the city of Chicago. It is estimated that 700 thousand of these personnel suffer from PTSD or undiagnosed combat stress.  Often overlooked is the fact that combat related stress is also contagious across the entire family. Considering an average family unit of three persons, the number of our neighbors affected by this stress is closer to 2.1 million.

Boulder Crest Retreat’s main programs were designed by combat Veterans for combat Veterans and are distinguished by their non-clinical approach and emphasis on creating sustained results.  Their results speak for themselves; 40 – 60% sustained reduction in PTSD symptoms, 50% reduction in depression and an amazing 84% remission rate versus the 2% rate in “traditional” programs.

Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes) is an 18 month program that begins with a 7 day intensive retreat at one of the Boulder Crest facilities and continues with regular follow up.  They do not see themselves as a “catch and release” program.  They also offer PATHH programs for couples, family members and caregivers.

Boulder Crest is entirely privately funded are Josh encourages anyone interested in their programs to contact them directly at info@ bouldercrestretreat.org

TAKEAWAY:  “If you are a combat Veteran, first responder or a family member and you don’t have the life you want – if you are struggling, hit us up..we are here for you.”


Innovations from World War II – Craig Suter


Innovations made during the Second World War are still with us today – and some of them may surprise you!  A really entertaining and enlightening chat with Craig Suter, author of “The Inventor’s War; The Durable Ideas and Innovations of World War Two.”

In order to find information for this compilation Craig had to read over 450 other books, period magazine stories and even research old newspaper advertisements.

Some of these innovations came about due to an obvious need; pressurized cabins so that bombers could fly above enemy anti-aircraft fire, sunscreen for the troops in the withering Pacific campaign and radio controlled machinery. But others..well listen to the podcast but here are some teasers.

  • The filling in Twinkies was originally banana flavored but replaced with the recently invented artificial vanilla while there was a shortage of banana transports during the war. When bananas once again became readily available, the manufacturer tried to switch back but consumers liked the vanilla better.
  • M&M’s found their way into soldiers rations but the only color was violet because it was one of the few dyes not rationed.
  • Duct Tape resulted from the Army’s request for an item to keep ammunition dry in wooden crates. But creative field troops soon found it convenient for covering airplane gun ports and the ventilation ducting in planes and automobiles. That is how it got its name.
  • One of my favorite childhood toys – The Slinky – actually came about by accident when an engineer working on a method of protecting vital electronics of warships. He accidentally knocked over a prototype and watched in amazement as it “walked” off the workbench.


Perhaps my favorite is the amazing story of Ralph Teetor.  Blinded as a child he nonetheless went on to become an engineer responsible for some of the innovations we enjoy today.

Craig says he is working on a second volume.  Enjoy today’s show and keep an eye out for his next book!


“Sometime” Never Comes

Claire O'Brien

Claire O’Brien
Photo Credit: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

“We should have you on the show sometime.”  This week that became my least favorite phrase.

It has been four years since I stepped up to assure that the messages of American Warrior Radio would not go silent upon the untimely death of the program’s founder Dave Sitton.

My initial decision was driven by passion for the message, not business sense.  Many listeners and guests are surprised to learn that the radio station does not compensate me for broadcasting the show. Quite to the contrary, I pay them for the pleasure to rent an hour of their airwaves.  Thanks to our generous advertisers, this year will mark my first that American Warrior Radio will not be a very expensive personal labor of love.

My fourth year as host marked another important threshold. American Warrior is gaining sufficient traction that publicists, movie studios and public relations firms are now calling us suggesting their clients for guest spots on the program.   We still do most the research and bookings ourselves, seeking out stories that inspire and need to be heard by the 99% of the population who never served in the military. But getting phone calls from New York, Hollywood or…Sioux City Iowa can be a real morale booster.

This brings me to my least favorite phrase.  Not long ago I came across a series written by Tim Gallagher of the Sioux City Journal. It was about women veterans. One in particular fired my imagination; 95 year old Claire O’Brien who volunteered for the WAVES during World War II and served our nation for two and a half years.  HERS was a story I wanted to help tell.

So I contacted Mr. Gallagher and not long after received a phone call from Claire O’Brien.  Her voice was strong for someone who had witnessed nearly a full century and she said she would be happy to come on the program.

Year end is always tough. Programming is adjusted to fulfill promises. Many Veteran’s charities make a special push during the holidays.  “Yes, we must have you on the show sometime.”

Claire O’Brien died this past Sunday.  Luckily for our nation, her story had been told by others.  But there remain so many others from her generation whose story, whose messages, if not recorded will be lost forever.

Douglas Dillard

Doug Dillard

One year ago, we had Douglas Dillard on the show. He jumped in behind enemy lines during D-Day, survived the Battle of the Bulge and went on to lead covert operations in both Korea and Vietnam.  He held every rank in the Army except General. Doug was a great interview and we agreed that he should come on the show again sometime.  In September I received a note from his daughter – Doug had passed.

Often, “sometime” never comes.  If you know a Veteran from that generation, ask for their story. Record it if they are willing to share.  Their sacrifices must transcend time.


2nd Battle of Fallujah – Donald Baker, USMC


Donald Baker in Fallujah. Photo Credit: Patrick K. O’Donnell

The 2nd Battle of Fallujah was the bloodiest of the Iraq War.  So then why don’t more people know about it?


Donald Baker is a Marine Veteran with 9 years of service including three deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.  His path to becoming a Marine was set forth by two elements; his father’s service as a Force Recon Marine in Vietnam and Donald’s dream of becoming a filmmaker.

One of his early films about World War I won an award and motivated him to make other movies about war.  But Donald believed he could not properly tell stories about war if he had never been in the military or seen war.  Inadvertently he would find himself at the tip of the spear in a battle that would become part of Marine Corps lore; the most brutal house to house combat since Hue City in Vietnam.

Before returning home, his Gunnery Sergeant said something that would come full circle; “The world doesn’t care, they have already forgotten you. They’ve already moved on.”  Donald has found that when he mentions the 2nd Battle of Fallujah he often gets blank stares. This reinforces his belief in the need to tell the story of his fellow Marines at Fallujah. His article “This is Why Fallujah is One of the Marine Corps Most Legendary Battles” was recently published by We Are the Mighty   .

Much like the Marine battles of World War II, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah was fought up close and personal with rifles, hand grenades and Bangalore torpedoes. Donald shared that sometimes the enemy was within inches of his muzzle. Donald related one particular mortar attack that wiped out all but two of his seven man machine gun squad.  He also shares his respect and admiration Patrick O’Donnell, a civilian author and historian who stood shoulder to shoulder with his platoon during the battle.

So long as they speak your name, you shall never die. Here are the names of comrades from Donald’s Company who made the ultimate sacrifice at Fallujah:

  • Sergeant William James – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Nicholas Larsen – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Staff Sergeant Russell Slay – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Nathan Wood – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Corporal Theodore Bowling – Nov. 11, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Benjamin Bryan – Nov. 13, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Michael Hanks – Nov. 17, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Luis Figueroa – Nov. 18, 2004

TAKEAWAY:  “I think every Veteran has to deal with thoughts about their brothers who didn’t get to come home. It weighs upon your heart. They don’t get to tell their story so it is up to those of us who are left to be able to do that for them. “


Veterans Day – Maj. Gen. Ted Maxwell and PFC Jessica Lynch

Veterans Day

Maj. Gen. Edward Maxwell

Our Veterans Day show features guests from the one of the highest ranks to the lowest; Major General Edward Maxwell (US Air Force) and Private First Class Jessica Lynch (US Army).

Maj. General Maxwell is the Component Commander for the Arizona Air National Guard. He is an Air Force Academy graduate and also holds an MBA from the University of Arizona.  Ted is a command pilot with more than 4,500 flight hours – some in the skies over Iraq.

Veterans Day

Jessica Lynch

Jessica Lynch came into the public eye when her Army convoy was ambushed March 23, 2003 in Iraq. She was wounded and captured by enemy forces.

Despite serving for different lengths of time at different ranks, both Jessica and Ted’s observations when discussing Veterans Day share several common themes; their admiration for Veterans of the previous generation and the importance of supporting and taking care of Veterans who have returned from war.

Ted and I discuss my perception of the growing gap of understanding between our civilian and military populations. We also touch on the emergence of a “warrior caste” in America – families with multi-generational traditions of service.

Ted and I also discuss one of my biggest gripes; people who wish Veterans a “Happy Memorial Day”.

In the 15 years since her combat experiences, Jessica has become a teacher and has been very involved in programs that support Veterans and their families.  Reflecting upon Veterans Day she says that it should all be about the love, care and support our communities can provide for those who served.

Both Ted and Jessica feel very confident about the young people that are now stepping up to “fill their boots”.

TAKEAWAY: “The best thing that people can do to honor the service of Veterans is to learn more about what we do and the challenges our families may face.”


So. AZ Law Enforcement Assoc. – Bonnie Faircloth

Law Enforcement

The men & women of Law Enforcement are the thin but resilient blue thread that binds the fabric of any decent and civilized society.  On any given day they may be called upon to help bring a life into our world, to save a life, or to take a life.

Bonnie Faircloth is the Executive Director of the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Foundation.  Their mission is to raise funds to acquire or supplement the purchase of critical lifesaving equipment, technology and ongoing officer safety training. They protect and support those who protect and serve.

Bonnie has a special passion for the SALEF mission; her husband recently retired from the Sheriff’s department.  She knows what it was like to hold her breath when her husband left for his shift and breathe a sigh of relief when he returned safely.

Since their inception, they have provided over 400 bullet proof vests for patrol officers, helped to acquire a K-9 dog and paid for officers to travel for essential duty training. They also conduct a program called the Safe Teen Accident Reduction Training Program which provides hands-on life saving driving skills and training.  Bonnie said she has had parents call to state that the training helped their child avoid and accident immediately after the program.


The Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Foundation organizes several major fundraising events that not only help subsidize their programs but provide a good forum for the community to get to know members of law enforcement.  Some of these include the annual “Cops and Rodders” car show and “Canine Walk for Cops”.

Bonnie emphasizes that one of the elements that makes SALEF somewhat different from other similar agencies across the country is the fact that their Board of Directors is truly community based. While there are Law Enforcement Veterans involved in leadership, there is a clear delineation between themselves and the agencies they serve.

If you do not have a similar organization in YOUR community and would like to explore how to get one started, please contact SALEF via their website.


The Korean War – Three Veterans who were there

Korean War

(L-R) Wally Howard, Chuck Hudson, Lacy Bethea

Three Korean War Veterans join us in studio. Despite US losses of 36,574 killed and 103,284 wounded, Korea is known as “The Forgotten War”.  An astounding 7,747 Americans remain unaccounted for.


Wally Howard’s first enlistment was with the US Navy stationed aboard the destroyer USS Frank Knox. Their role during the Korean War was surveillance, radar and backup shore gunnery.  After departing the Navy, Wally enlisted for two tours as a Marine reservist.

Lacy Bethea enlisted in the Marines on October 4, 1946 and was a Gunnery Sergeant in charge of ammunition during Korea. Lacy is a member of “The Chosin Few” – the 30,000 United Nations troops encircled by 120,000 Chinese troops at the Chosin Reservoir.

Chuck Hudson is an Air Force Veteran and served with the 18th Fighter Wing toward the end of the Korean War. He went on to serve in Vietnam as well.

Wally is Chapter President for the Arizona Korean War Veterans Association. He discusses their support for “Bravo Base” a mini military encampment made up of homeless Veterans.  They recently secured the donation of a mini-van to provide transportation for the 30-35 residents of the encampment.

Lacy served with “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in US history. During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Puller said “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”  Lacy said that following their first battle with Chinese troops they sent a message back to headquarters and received a reply that the “No, the Chinese weren’t there”.  Lacy also shares what it was like fighting a 17 day pitched battle during the coldest winter in Korean memory.

Chuck recalls having a stove in the center of the tent. If one turned the stove up you risked burning the tent down but turning the stove down meant potentially freezing to death.

Takeaway:  “They may call it the Forgotten War but we sure as heck never forgot.”


Craig Morgan – Operation Finally Home

Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan

Country music entertainer and TV host Craig Morgan has been both behind a rifle and behind a microphone. Craig has been named the Operation Finally Home 2017 Ambassador and is helping to raise money via his “American Stories” concert tour.  We are also joined by Operation Finally Home Executive Director Rusty Carroll.

Operation Finally Home builds mortgage free homes for military heroes and families of the fallen. Since 2005 they have completed or are in final planning stages of providing 218 homes for Veterans in 33 states.

Craig Morgan

Rusty Carroll (L) & Craig Morgan (R) inform Army Vet Justin Raymer & wife Kaci they will be receiving a free home. (Photo Credit: South Bend Tribune)

Craig Morgan knows the importance of community support for the military; he served nearly 17 years as a member of the 101st and 82nd airborne divisions.  He loved his time in the military and would do it again if called. During a re-enlistment talk Craig’s Commander told him he could become a Sergeant Major but he also showed great promise as an entertainer.

After consulting with his wife, Craig decided to give it a try, but stayed in the active reserves “just in case”. When fans started showing up looking for autographs outside the post gate, Craig decided it was time to make the jump to entertainment as a full time career.


As a soldier in the audience at a USO concert, Craig never imagined himself on stage. He has now completed 14 overseas USO tours and is the recipient of the USO Merit Award.  In fact, during his first USO tour he performed for some of the same soldiers that he had previously served with.

Executive Director Rusty Carroll says God had his hand in bringing Craig Morgan and Operation Finally Home together.  They would like to build MORE homes for Veterans and are looking for developers, builders and corporate sponsors in markets all across the country. If you have contacts in your local market, PLEASE consider helping to build a home for a deserving Veteran in your community!


Operation Surf – Van Curaza and Bobby Lane

Operation Surf

Van Curaza (R)

Operation Surf saved Bobby Lane’s life. Surfing saved Van Curaza’s life. Together, they are helping to rebuild and save other lives. Operation Surf is the subject of the award winning documentary “Resurface”.

Bobby said he wanted to serve with the best, so he became a Marine.  Serving in Iraq, his platoon suffered five roadside bomb attacks in the span of 11 days. Bobby was exposed to all of them but was so committed to the Corps he removed shrapnel from his arms and legs himself because he didn’t want to be sent home.

Operation Surf

Bobby Lane

Bobby says “You go to war but the REAL war starts when you get home.” He was struggling.  His fellow employees feared him.  His family didn’t understand. Physicians prescribed medication – lots and lots of medication.

When offered the opportunity to participate in Operation Surf – something that had always been on his bucket list, he accepted. His plan was to check that box and then commit suicide. But he found peace in the ocean. Bobby is still trying to figure out how to transition but the surfing community has welcomed him with open arms.

Van Curaza, the President  & Founder of Amazing Surf Adventures, had a rough start in life. As he got older, lifestyle changes began taking him down the wrong road of alcohol and drug abuse.  The one thing that kept him in order was the idea that if he were arrested he would not be able to surf.  He has now been involved with the sport for over 40 years.  Because surfing helped him turn his life around, he began offering those experiences to young people and eventually Veterans.

Operation Surf is a free program that exposes Veterans and active duty military to the healing power of the ocean through adaptive surfing and supportive curriculum.  An in depth medical study showed a 35% decrease in PTSD symptoms and a 47% reduction in depression among Operation Surf participants.

Takeaway: “The VA kept giving Bobby meds to address his PTSD related nightmares, but after only three days on the ocean all he dreams about now is surfing.”