military

Col. Kenneth Trzepkowski, chief of palliative care at Madigan Army Medical Center, unfolds one of the handmade quilts donated to the hospital for the palliative care patients.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

Caring for the nation's veterans at the end of their lives can be a complex task. Service members — especially combat veterans — can struggle with guilt, abandonment and regret.

The Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs are working to help them. At one Army hospital in Tacoma, its mission is to make those last days meaningful.

It's impolite to stare. But when it comes to severely injured soldiers, maybe we don't look enough; or maybe we'd rather not see wounded veterans at all.

Courtesy of George Patterson and Dave Cable

Lt. James Patterson, better known as Kelly, is missing in action.

Patterson went MIA 48 years ago, after his plane was shot down near Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

Brig. Gen. Viet Luong sits on a case of MREs, the soldiers' daily meals. He's inside a cavernous hanger at an Afghan army base outside the southern city of Kandahar.

A couple dozen American and Australian soldiers lounge on green cots lining the sides. Banners of U.S. military units hang on the walls. Between the troops is a 6-foot-tall shipment of Girl Scout cookies.

Luong's job is to train the Afghan military to fight a guerrilla force, the Taliban. But he's willing to talk about another guerrilla war, long ago.

Children aboard this World Airways DC-8 jet were evacuated from Vietnam on April 2, 1975, shortly before the fall of Saigon and two days before the first official Operation Babylift flight. One child was Thanh Jeff Ghar (center, lying by a window), 12.
Photo as exhibited at the Presidio's Operation Babylift: Perspectives & Legacies exhibition at the Officers' Club, courtesy of the AP

It was April 2, 1975, and flight attendant Jan Wollett was at a bar in Saigon. Her flight crew had been told they wouldn’t board passengers that day – they would carry children out of Vietnam instead.

Wollett lined the floor of the plane with blankets because it had no seats. During takeoff, every adult had their arms around the youngest children, she says.

A view inside the Washington National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility on Joint Base Lewis McChord in February. As Congress cuts $500 billion from the Defense Department budget, the National Guard and active Army are competing for the same dollars.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

Inside the hangar at Washington state's Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Army National Guard mechanics are busy maintaining a neat line of Blackhawks.

Some of the Washington Guard's Chinook helicopters have flown in every war since Vietnam and they have the bullet holes to prove it.

Orphans at the Ghenh Rang Orphanage in South Vietnam before Operation Babylift. Julie Davis, who lives in Minneapolis, belies that's her looking at the camera.
Courtesy of Julie Davis

Julie Davis, who was airlifted to Seattle from Saigon in 1975, shares her story. This week marks the 40th anniversary of Operation Babylift, the mass evacuation of children from South Vietnam. 

I was just a year old when a Boeing 747 airlifted me and hundreds of other babies from Saigon. We headed to Seattle, Houston, Minneapolis.

Thirty years later, I returned to Vietnam to find the orphanage where I had been dropped off just after my birth.

Lisa Pauley was a volunteer at an Adventist hospital in Hong Kong. Joyce Wertz Harrington, a fellow nurse, photographed their 30-hour journey.
Courtesy of Joyce Wertz Harrington

Jeannie Yandel talked with historian Jeremi Suri about Operation Babylift, the U.S. government's program to airlift as many South Vietnamese babies -- orphans in addition to other babies -- out of South Vietnam as possible before the North Vietnamese troops arrived. 

File photo of Joint Base Lewis-McChord headquarters.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

The suicide rate among recent veterans is about 50 percent higher than non-veterans with similar demographics. But a study published Wednesday found that deploying to a war zone didn't necessarily increase a service members’ suicide risk.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's attorney released details of his captivity in Afghanistan after the Army charged him Wednesday with desertion.

The home town of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is quiet Wednesday now that the former P.O.W. is charged with desertion.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009, after he walked off his military outpost in southeastern Afghanistan. In a controversial move and five years after his capture, the Obama administration cut a deal with the Taliban, securing Bergdahl's release in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees who were being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

The Army has charged Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho with desertion, intent to shirk duty and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering soldiers' safety. Bergdahl could face a life sentence.

On Monday night KUOW reporter Patricia Murphy received a frantic call from her sister in New Jersey: “YOU’RE ON THE F*&%ING DAILY SHOW!” she said.

And sure enough, Trish’s low, distinctive voice was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in a segment titled, “Doctor When.” The story was about the Choice program, a Veterans Affairs initiative to curb wait times and travel times for veterans in remote areas.

Watch the clip:

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