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World War II Foundation – Tim Gray

War FoundationTim Gray is the Founder and Chairman of the World War II Foundation. He has produced 18 World War II documentary films to date, with several more in post-production.  Tim is a master storyteller; just the kind of person we love on American Warrior Radio!

His work has been recognized with FIVE regional Emmy Awards, THREE Indie International Film Fest Awards and American Public Television’s National Programming Excellence Award. Tim’s documentary films rank among the top five most requested programs nationally by PBS Stations.

Tim was a sports and news anchor before taking a leap of faith and retiring to create the World War II Foundation. He was soon rewarded when his first documentary film won an Emmy. He is used to deadlines but faces his biggest challenge yet; chronicling the stories of the World War II generation before they have all passed on.

His latest work is “D-Day Over Normandy” which uses modern drone technology to give viewers a bird’s eye view of these critical battlefields complimented with interviews of men who were there and participated in the combat.

“D-Day Over Normandy” is narrated by NFL legend Bill Belichik. Belichik is just one of the notable names who have narrated Tim’s films. Others include; Tom Selleck, Matthew Broderick, Dan Akroyd, President George W. Bush,  David Schwimmer, Ben Affleck and Governor Tom Ridge. Actor Damion Lewis (who played Major Dick Winters in Band of Brothers) said it was a defining moment in his life.

While fun to partner with celebrities, Tim says he gets a bigger thrill meeting his World War II heroes. One common trait among them all is an earnest sense of humility – they had a job to do and did it.  He pursues his mission to educate future generations through the films of the World War II Foundation with a similar earnest passion.

The World War II Foundation is a non-profit and anyone who wishes to donate my do so directly at their website.


A Veteran Helping Veterans – Deb Martinez-Garibay

Deb Martinez-Garibay is an Army Reservist with a passion for helping Veterans.

Deb shares additional information and background on just a few of the projects with which she is involved.  She emphasized that no matter the program, they all need volunteers and support in the form or monetary or in-kind contributions.

Team RWB

Team RWB seeks to enrich the lives of America’s Veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. They have chapters in 87 communities around the globe.  Activities range from team sports to marathons or cultural events. This program is a great way for civilians to get to engage in helping Veterans and also getting to know their stories and challenges.

PGA Hope (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere)

Sponsored by the Professional Golfers Association, the HOPE program provides Veterans with FREE golf instruction taught by local PGA Professionals. The year round program is designed to enhance rehabilitation and assimilation back into civilian society. The local group even has a special wheel chair built for a disabled Veteran that allows him to golf!

Arizona Veterans Stand Down Alliance

A Stand Down is community-based event where organizations come together to provide annual, one to three day events that bring together the State’s homeless and at-risk military veterans, connecting them with services ranging from: VA HealthCare, Mental Health Services, Clothing, Meals, Emergency Shelter, Transitional and Permanent Housing, ID/ Drivers License’s, Court Services and Legal Aide, Showers and Haircuts and myriad other services and resources.

We wrap the show with Deb sharing some of the personal challenges she has faced after becoming disabled during here military service.  Her experiences have inspired her to become even more active in programs that are helping Veterans who may not have the kind of family support network that she has.


Memorial Day – Navy SEAL Nelson Miller

Memorial DayNelson Miller KNOWS the reasons for Memorial Day. He spent two decades in the military, much of it as a Navy SEAL. He has lost comrades in combat. One wall in his Trident Grill restaurant is dedicated to those comrades lost.

When it comes to Memorial Day, Nelson leans toward George Patton’s position of “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived!”

“When I have a bad day or a bad week or a bad moment, and I think of some of my friends and realize; what would they give to have my bad day? That puts things in perspective.  I want to remember these guys a week from Tuesday, not just on Memorial Day.”

BBG and Nelson agreed that everyone should observe Memorial Day in their own way – somber or celebrative. Just so long as they recognize the reason the day exists.

Memorial Day

Pvt. James William DeGraff

We also share a heartwarming Memorial Day story brought to our attention by the folks at Legacy Tree. James William DeGraff was an Army Private killed on Utah Beach on D-Day. His full story might not have been told were it not for Don Alfonso. Don was visiting a cemetery in Normandy when his eye was drawn to a headstone of the fellow Floridian.  Unable to let go of the connection he made with this soldier, Don commissioned Legacy Tree genealogists to do extensive research so that James’ story will not be forgotten. They were even able to locate a photo of James taken just before deployment.  This story showcases the strong connection between the American public and those who fight for our freedoms, even when there is not a familial association.

Takeaway:  When asked what civilians can do to honor those who paid the ultimate price, Nelson delivered a short concise answer – “Live..because we are not here very long”.


Havok Journal Update – Scott Faith

Havok Journal editor Scott Faith checks in to share updates on some of the issues & articles from their website.  The writings at Havok Journal are compelling, interesting and sometimes humorous.

This “buffet for the brain” discussion delves into several issues.  We begin with a “how not to make military friends segment” by sharing the story of an east coast auctioneer who advertised a big sale of household goods/personal property of military members who were stationed overseas.  While the auction house later clarified this was abandoned property and they had followed all requirements for notification of the property owners, the stir caused them to cancel the auction until issues could be clarified.

Next we get Scott’s take on the situation with North Korea. While this could be more of the saber rattling we have come to expect from that nation’s leader, Scott shares his perspective from two years stationed near the DMZ.

Lastly we discuss Scott’s rationale for why our nation should bring back the military draft. He suggests that a limited military draft should go into effect any time there is a military conflict lasting longer than 180 days and involving the deaths of more than 1000 US service members.   He makes a compelling case, especially in terms of the fact that war has become an abstraction for a great percentage of the American populace.

Scott also makes a very good case for the fact that we HAVE had a draft to fulfill the manpower needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the “stop loss” program during which some members were prevented from leaving the military and involuntarily recalling inactive Reservists to active duty.  This practice requires those to have already fulfilled their obligation to our nation to continue to bear the burden on seeming unending conflicts.

TAKEAWAY: Havok Journal is an excellent source for the perspectives of Veterans and the civilians who support them.


Host on the Hot Seat


BBG with John Eslinger at his Honorary Commander “Retirement”

I thought the whole reason for having a guest host was so that I could take the occasional weekend off – but John Eslinger had other ideas.

In the nearly 30 years I have been supporting the military, I always knew that it was the right thing to do but never gave much thought to what led me down this path or the influences it has had on my life. John challenges me by putting ME in the hot seat and quizzing me on the factors that led to my role as host for American Warrior Radio.

Growing up my family didn’t have much interaction with the military. No one on my mother or fathers side of the family served except an uncle who was drafted during the Korean War.  My fascination began sophomore year in high school with a book report on “1,000 Destroyed” by Grover Hall, Jr.  Mr. Hall was the Public Relations officer for the 4th Fighter group during World War II. I wanted to be a fighter pilot but life had other ideas in store.

We discussed some of the circumstances that led to my increased interaction with the military and eventual role as a talk show host. From the Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee to my brother’s bronze star about which he STILL cannot speak.

As a radio host I am able to participate in many activities that are fun for a civilian. However, the real rewards I receive from interacting with the men & women of our military come in terms of inspiration and the mental/emotional “recharge” of observing persons committed to a cause greater than themselves.

Air Force Veteran Chris Cobb also phones in to share his mission to climb the highest mountain in North America to raise money for the Arizona Fisher House.  People can make a pledge here and follow his step by step progress on his Facebook page.


Pima Air and Space Museum

air museum

Pima Air Museum Director Scott Marchand, Sean & Tiffanie Denlinger, Rick Felker.

Pima Air and Space Museum is the world’s largest non-government funded air museum. This week our Nova Home Loans remote broadcast took us to the Pima Air and Space Museum to learn more about their programs and talk with one of their volunteers who flew some of the aircraft on display.

Pima hosts over 300 historical aircraft on 80 acres and in several hangars. Some of their more unique displays include an SR-71 Blackbird, a former Air Force One and many World War II, Korea and Vietnam era aircraft.  A big part of their mission includes education and they host regular programs for youth.

Rick Felker with O-2 similar to the one he flew in Vietnam

One of the museum volunteers is Rick Felker, who flew the Cessna O-2 on 325 missions as a Forward Air Controller over the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam. Some of his missions were pre-assigned and some involved loitering over certain areas. As a Forward Air Controller he had the authority to take anyone off a mission regardless of rank.

The second half of his tour he was selected for missions under the call sign “Prairie Fire”.  These involved Special Forces and indigenous personnel conducting small patrols along the Ho Chi Minh trail. “These guys were the true warriors; they were under fire from the minute they were inserted into the landing zone.” There were never more than 75 personnel in these ground groups and during 7 years of combat they were awarded five Medals of Honor. Everyone on these teams was wounded, some more than once. One of the personnel was on the run and under fire but when the FAC checked in with him he replied “I’ve got them right where I want them..surrounded from the inside!”

Pima Air Museum is always seeking good volunteers and donors. For more information please visit their website.

Takeaway: “It wasn’t the heavy caliber anti-aircraft I worried about, it was the smaller caliber rapid firing guns that could zip a wing off. And we were often pretty much down where they could throw rocks at us.”


September 11 Visit from the President – Tom Keck

September 11

Lt. General Thomas Keck

On September 11 Lt. General Thomas Keck was conducting an exercise at Barksdale AFB. Before long the President of the United States would be making an unannounced visit to his base.

As Commander of the 8th Air Force, Keck had just begun the Global Guardian exercise when a Captain handed him a note stating a plane had hit the World Trade Center. General Keck informed the Captain that all messages should begin with “Sir, this is an exercise message” to avoid confusion. But there was no mistake – in a few minutes a second plane hit the towers and Keck knew we were under attack and they converted to a “real” THREATCON Delta.

Keck called for fighter aircraft to protect his base. The nearest assets were reserve A-10’s that were put on alert to shoot down any unauthorized incoming aircraft. Thankfully, Keck never had to give THAT order but did receive a message about an incoming “Code Alpha” flight which turned out to be Air Force One with President Bush on board. They got President Bush situated and he delivered his September 11 address to the nation from Barksdale Air Force Base.

Keck also shared some experiences he had following September 11, including throwing out the first pitch at the Mets-Braves game and visiting ground zero.  Several retired firefighters still searching for remains had lost sons on September 11.  Keck had two Captains who had just returned from combat over Afghanistan as his escort. They presented the firefighters with arming lanyards from bombs released on those missions.

Tom is a member of “The Friday Pilots” and if it had wings, he flew it during his career; from A-10’s to B-2 bombers and even the SR-71 Blackbird.  He has 4600 flight hours, 886 flying B-52’s in combat over Vietnam. As an SR-71 pilot, he has literally flown faster than a speeding bullet. One mission from England to California, he landed before he took off. “You could make the sun rise in the west in an SR-71”.

TAKEAWAY: President Johnson was supposed to announce the name of our new spy plane as “RS-71” but he misspoke, calling it the SR-71.  The designation stuck.


Sand Castle – Chris Roessner

Sand Castle

Photo Credit: The Pat Tillman Foundation

The screenplay for Sand Castle was inspired at sunrise in an abandoned Iraqi palace.

Chris Roessner was guarding the palace and during his down time he watched the movie Platoon, a classic depicting the experience of young men during the Vietnam War.  Chris decided to write a screenplay about what it was like for HIS generation in the Iraq War.

Chris joined the Army to help pay for college tuition – film school to be precise.  Then 9-11 happened. He found himself part of civil affairs unit in Iraq during which he says he was able to witness both our mission successes and failures.

Sand Castle tells the fictional story of an inexperienced Army Private who, along with his fellow soldiers – is ordered to repair a water pumping station destroyed by US bombs.  Sand Castle debuts April 21 on Netflix.

Sand Castle was the first screen play he has written.  He remembers advice given by directing great Robert Zemeckis “If you want to do this job, you can..but it’s going to cost you your twenties.”

As a Tillman scholarship recipient, Chris credits the Pat Tillman Foundation for much of his success.

Chris shares his two most important motivations for this film; showing the shared sacrifice of US and Iraqi soldiers and his insistence that the actors look and be young. “It is crucial that the American populace not be corrupted in their image about what an American soldier looks like. If we are going to send people to war, the image of who we are sending better be abundantly clear.”

TAKEAWAY:  “Obviously serving in a war time military is the toughest thing you can do – it is clearly emotionally taxing. But the difference is that in the military you are serving alongside people who are focused intently on a common goal that is bigger than themselves. You don’t realize how rare that is.”


Innovative Readiness Training Program

Innovative ReadinessThe Innovative Readiness Training Program is a unique initiative that provides high quality, mission essential training for active duty, guard and reserve personnel while contributing to domestic public and civic needs.

Four members of our armed services phone in to American Warrior Radio to share more information about this great program and their personal experiences during “Arctic Care” in Kodiak , Alaska.

In 2016 the Innovative Readiness Training program carried out 30 projects across the US with Secretary of Defense Support – these led to another 12 independently supported projects.  Of the 30 funded projects, 14 were construction projects, 15 medical projects and 1 was a transportation project.

Major Anna Hill, the IRT Program Manager for Air Force Reserve Command shares some history and background on IRT and Arctic Care exercise.  150 military personnel representing every branch of the military are providing dental, medical, optometry and veterinary services to underserved populations in and around Kodiak.  Arctic Care is the “capstone” of IRT this year  involving nine months of planning and all the logistics that would normally be involved with a deployment.

Senior Master Sergeant Amy Stultz (940th Aerospace Medicine Squadron) shares the logistical challenges of setting up programs that assist not only the residents of the town of Kodiak but also the five teams establishing clinics in remote villages in the region.  She emphasized that the exercise also provides excellent training opportunities for logistical support personnel like communications, air lift crews, etc.

Captain Anna Cruz (624th Aerospace Medicine Flight) is a nurse practitioner who volunteered for Arctic Care.  She shares the story of one man who had not seen a doctor in 10 years but was experiencing chest pain.  Captain Cruz identified a serious issue and the patient was airlifted immediately to a hospital for potentially lifesaving heart surgery.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Kiara Schuster (Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes Det. Oscar) is participating in her first Innovative Readiness program.  Her current civilian job is in child care but after her experiences during Arctic Care she is considering entering the dental field.  She is confident that the training she is receiving during this exercise will definitely make her a better corpsman when she is deployed.

TAKEWAY: “ The commitment you make when you put the uniform on is a commitment to something greater than yourself.”


The Early Days of the Drone – Col. John Dale


Col John Dale

Colonel John Dale had an adventurous 32 year Air Force career including involvement in the very first drone programs. Many of the programs with which he was involved were just recently declassified.

John graduated high school during the Korean War and wanted to fly but hadn’t earned a college degree so he joined the Aviation Cadets program. He earned his wings in 1954 and was hoping to become a “hot shot jet pilot” but the end of the Korean War meant he would be assigned to C-119 troop carriers, which he considered a “real let down”.

However, he was soon recruited for the Project Genetrix reconnaissance program which launched high altitude camera carrying balloons that would drift over Eastern Europe, China and the Soviet Union. John and his fellow crew members would recover the balloons over the Pacific Ocean in specially designed C-119’s.  “You could actually say I was in balloon reconnaissance, I’m pretty old.”

Next, he began flying the then new C-130 and even flew with the “Four Horsemen” – the world’s only four engine aircraft demonstration team.

John was testing and developing the Parachute Low Altitude Delivery systems out of Japan during the early stages of Vietnam when his commanding General told him he would be sent to Tucson to fly DC-130’s – he had never heard of the place OR the aircraft!

The “Buffalo Hunter” mission involved “Firebee” and “Lightning Bug” drones that flew over North Vietnam, Cambodia, China & North Korea.  These drones proved a particular frustration for the enemy, particularly when drones were simultaneously launched from both sides of the country at once. John recalls one mission when 19 MIGs were chasing one drone! He also credits the drones for five kills, as MIGs chasing drones were often hit by their own anti-aircraft fire or ran out of fuel.

He hadn’t ever flown the U-2 but learned when he was assigned command of the squadron. When he first took over the squadron, there were only 11 U-2 pilots in the Air Force.

Only 1 of 25 volunteers qualified for the U-2. “When they graduated we had a big party with lots to drink. We wanted to make sure they were the kind of people that wouldn’t shoot off their mouth when drunk.”