Episodes

  • On April 1, 2024, LCDR Lou Conter, U.S. Navy (Retired) died at the age of 102. He was the last living survivor of the USS Arizona, which was sunk by the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His passing marks a somber milestone for a generation that courageously rose up to defend our nation and our allies.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Conter shares how he joined the Navy, got assigned to the USS Arizona, and was privy to the conversations of commanders aboard the battleship. He also shares what it as like to live through the Japanese attacks that killed nearly 1,200 of his shipmates, what he was doing before and after the order to abandon ship, and the difficult work that followed.

    But Conter's service did not end there. He also describes going to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, just weeks after the attacks, his service as a PBY pilot in the Pacific theater, and how he survived being shot down into the ocean.

    Conter also shares some of his service surveilling the Soviets near Iceland in the early days of the Cold War and how the tough jungle survival course he taught turned out to be a critical asset for the Americans imprisoned at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" in Vietnam.

  • Chris Alvarez grew up knowing he wanted to serve and that he wanted to serve with the best. After being convinced to join the Marines once he was old enough, a high school teacher who had served in the Marines encouraged him to learn more about the U.S. Navy SEAL's. It didn't take much research for Alvarez to decide that's exactly what he wanted to be.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Alvarez takes us through the grueling BUD/s training required to become a U.S. Navy SEAL. He explains what was most challenging for him and what's most important to understand about what the training is designed to accomplish.

    He also details his service with SEAl Team 10 in Afghanistan and with U.S. Southern Command in Latin America. And finally, he reflects on heading back to BUD/s training to serve as an instructor.

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  • Kelly Elmlinger was a three-sport athlete in high school. She excelled in cross country, basketball, and track. After considering military service, she decided to keep playing sports at the next level, but she quickly decided college was not for her. That's when she joined the Army and became a combat medic, eventually with the 82nd Airborne Division, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Later, she became a nurse and then a cancer patient herself. Yet even after losing a leg, Elmlinger persevered and represented the U.S. at the Paralympic Games just a few years later.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Elmlinger shares how the 9/11 attacks changed the trajectory of her military service and how her combat medic training suddenly became much more real. She also describes her service in Afghanistan, meeting and connecting with the Afghan women, and what the Afghan men thought about her.

    Then she explains how different and how much harder the same job was in Iraq, why there was often little combat medics could do to help, and the painstaking efforts she and her teammates took to to find some personal effect to present to the families of every fallen service member.

    Elmlinger then recounts her decision to become a nurse and work with wounded veterans in San Antonio and how that work helped to prepare her to be a patient there as she battled cancer in her leg. And finally, she updates us on how she became an elite adaptive sports athlete - representing the U.S. at the 2021 Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo. And she'll do it again this summer in Paris!

  • Thomas "Drago" Dzieran grew up in Communist Poland. He realized he was being fed lies and propaganda as a boy when he got in big trouble at school for asking simple questions about the government. As a young man, he became actively involved in the Solidarity movement and in spreading anti-Communist messages. His activities landed him in prison and he was eventually expelled from Poland.

    Poland's loss was America's gain. In 1984, Drago Dzieran came to the U.S. Seven years later he became an American citizen - what he still considers his greatest accomplishment - and soon joined the U.S. Navy. A short time later he began BUD/s training and became a Navy SEAL.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Drago shares tremendous detail about his life behind the Iron Curtain, the grueling process to become a SEAL, and his three back-to-back deployments in Iraq. He will also tell us about his SEAL teams pursuing high-value targets and the toll that work took on his health.

    Finally, Drago shares what it was like returning to SEAL training as an instructor and why he enthusiastically loves the United States. It's an infectious enthusiasm will likely make you even prouder to be an American.

  • In the early 1960's, the U.S. Army developed a new way of moving troops into and out of strategic locations. It was called Air Cavalry and operated under the theory that moving forces by helicopter was faster and more precise than driving them or having them jump out of airplanes. One of the earliest and best known Air Cavalry engagements was at Landing Zone X-Ray during the Battle of Ia Drang in November 1965.

    Young Earnie Savage was part of Bravo company in the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. Shortly after landing at X-Ray, his platoon was cut off and the two highest-ranking member of the platoon were killed. That suddenly left him in charge, surrounded by the enemy and trying to keep any other men from being killed.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Savage tells us about the platoon getting cut off, how he adjusted to being in command, his strategy for holding off the enemy for many hours until they could reconnect with other American forces, why he did not get very nervous in combat, and much more.

    Savage also tells us about going right back to the fight shortly after surviving this ordeal and what it was like to train new members of the battalion after many of his friends completed their tours.

  • Leon Walker, Jr. grew up in a family full of Army and Marine Corps veterans. He tried to enlist in the Marines but the recruiter didn't want to be bothered on his lunch hour. Within minutes, Walker joined the U.S. Navy. He was initially assigned to serve as a deckhand on the fast frigate USS Reid, but on his first deployment he started learning how to navigate. For the next 21 years, he served as a navigator on many different deployments before rising to the rank of command master chief.

    On his second deployment, Walker and the USS Reid were in the southern Persian Gulf in May 1987, when another fast frigate, the USS Stark, was struck by two missiles fired by an Iraqi pilot in the northern part of the gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. The Reid raced to help and arrived the next day to find the Stark smoking and listing. Thirty-seven Americans were killed on the Stark and 21 others were injured.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Walker takes us step by step through the very difficult work of searching the Stark for the remains of those killed in the missile strike and tells us what he saw and did while on board. He also explains how he became numb do his duties that day and how it created post-traumatic stress that was not diagnosed for decades.

    Finally, Walker reflects on other deployments to the Persian Gulf and what it was like to navigate through the Suez Canal and the very rough waters of the Bering Sea.

  • Melvin Jenner was already in the Michigan Air National Guard when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After joining the U.S. Army Air Corps and undergoing training for a bomber crew, he was soon flying missions in the European Theater of World War II. The next few years would bring him harrowing bomber missions, a secret flight over Normandy on D-Day, and an unforgettable role in the Berlin Airlift.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Jenner tells us how he ended up flying missions in the A-20 with the British Royal Air Force before he ever flew with an American crew - and about his shock when he discovered those missions with the UK did not count towards his total needed for a ticket home.

    Jenner also describes his roles as radio man and gunner on the B-17, the most tense missions of the war and what it was like to fly through flak. He also shares what he saw from the sky as he flew over the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.

    But Jenner's memorable career did not end with the war. He also shares an emotional recollection of serving in the Berlin Airlift as the U.S. flew in provisions to break the Soviet blockade there. Finally, he tells about his role in helping Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier.

  • Patrick Finn fibbed about his age in order to join the U.S. Marine Corps a bit earlier than he should have. He served honorably and was ready to end his service before the Korean War ever began. But his inability to come up with $92 led him to re-enlist and in the summer of 1950 he was off to fight a war in a place he knew nothing about.

    The summer of 1950 was chaotic in Korea. The North Koreans invaded the south in late June and nearly conquered the whole peninsula. But U.S. forces arrived just in time, pushing out from the Pusan Perimeter and executing the very successful Inchon Landing. Within a couple of months, U.S. forces thought they would be home by Christmas.

    But in late 1950, just as the U.S. and our allies had pushed the North Koreans back to the Yalu River, Chinese forces came swarming across the border, inflicting severe American casualties, taking many troops prisoner, and surrounding U.S. Marines at Chosin Reservoir.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Patrick Finn describes the surprise of the Chinese onslaught, the brutally frigid temperatures at Chosin Reservoir, how the Marines fought while surrounded, and what it was like to fight hand-to-hand. Mr. Finn also reflects on the proce of our freedom and tells us why returning to Korea in recent years was such a powerful experience.

  • In our last edition of "Veterans Chronicles," we learned about the World War II service of U.S. Air Force Col. Joe Peterburs (Ret.). He told us all about escorting U.S. bombers into Germany, strafing Luftwaffe airfields, and shooting down a highly decorated German ace before getting shot down himself on the very same mission. Please be sure to listen to Part 1 of his story.

    But the story of Col. Peterburs goes well beyond World War II. In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Col. Peterburs takes from his quiet desk jobs in the Air Force after World War II to being back in the P-51, providing close air support to American forces during the Korean War.

    Later on, Peterburs tells us all about his service in Vietnam, the critical role he performed there in air traffic control, and the very close call he endured during the Tet Offensive.

    Finally, Peterburs tells about the commmand that he's most proud of from more than 36 years in uniform.

  • Joe Peterburs was on track to become a priest. All of that changed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The next year, Peterburs joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and trained to be a fighter pilot. He mastered the P-40, but by the time he got to England in late 1944, the P-51 was waiting for him.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Col. Joe Peterburs takes us through his service in World War II as he began a military career lasting more than 36 years.

    You'll hear about his first mission and a whole lot more about his last one...including how he shot down a German ace, got shot down himself on the very same day, was taken prisoner, and ended up fighting alongside Russians. And he shares the tale of an unthinkable reunion.

    Also, watch next week for the second part of our interview with Col. Peterburs, as he tells about his service in Korea and Vietnam.

  • Tom Toski was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1943 and was deployed on a destroyer escort to the Pacific theater upon completion of his training. By the end of the war, just two years later, Toski had earned five battle stars, including Leyte Gulf and Okinawa.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Toski shares his story of service, describes his memories of those critical battles, and explains why he is so proud of his service during the war.

  • After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Royal Earle, Jr. and a buddy were on their way to join the the U.S. Marine Corps to take the fight to Japan. But his friend got snagged by the U.S. Navy instead. Unfazed, Earle endured Parris Island and Camp Pendleton and received training as a switchboard operator and wireman in preparation for service in the Pacific.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Mr. Earle walks us through his biggest challenge in boot camp and a big mystery during his time at Camp Pendleton. Then he describes operations in the Marshall Islands before the landing and combat on Saipan, which Earle says involved the most terrifying moments of his wartime experience.

    Earle goes on to tell us about landing on Iwo Jima, navigating the black sand beaches, and the toll the Japanese inflicted on the Marines, including switchboard personnel. He also shares the most harrowing moment on Iwo Jima that brought a much happier ending than he first feared.

    Finally, Mr. Earle explains the pride and honor her feels to have served in the Marines and how that feeling welled up in him many decades later.

  • John DeGennero was just 15 years old and playing at a park on the Sunday the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After turning 17 in 1943, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, determined to help win the war. Over the next two years, that teenager perfected a skill that would be crucial to winning the Battle of Iwo Jima.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Mr. DeGennaro tells us about boot camp at Parris Island and then specializing in the science of sound ranging. From there he describes arriving at Iwo Jima and barely surviving his first night on the beach, watching the flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi, and the sounding ranging work he did to pinpoint and eliminate Japanese artillery positions on the island - and for which his unit was honored with a presidential citation.

    Finally, DeGennaro shares what the plan for his unit would have been if an invasion of Japan had been necessary - a plan he says that would likely have wiped out his entire division.

  • Richard Baughn served as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps and then the U.S. Air Force for more than 30 years both active duty and reserve. He retired as a brigadier general. Gen. Baughn's passion was flying and he put it to excellent use as a P-51 pilot over Europe in World War II and flying the F-104 and F-105 in Vietnam.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Gen. Baughn takes us along on his missions in World War II, both as a fighter escort for American bombers and his frequent strafing missions against German airfields. He also tells us about his most memorable aerial combat and the often overlooked role that air power played at the Battle of the Bulge.

    Baughn also tells us about his top secret work in Europe during the Korean War to deter any mischief from the Soviet Union and his inside role developing fighter jets such as the F-100, F-104, and F-105.

    From there, Gen. Baughn describes his leadership roles in the Vietnam War, the excellent men he served with, and the frustrating rules of engagement that he says tied the hands of American pilots and significantly endangered theirt lives.

    Finally, Baughn details his time leading the Air Force Tactical Fighter Weapons School during the war and his assignment in Saigon during the final months before it fell to the Communists.

  • Vincent Speranza was born to immigrant Italian parents in New York City. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Speranza's father stressed to his boys that they were Americans and that America must not lose the war. He was quite a bit more conflicted over the prospects of his sons fighting against Italy. Once old enough to serve, Speranza was assigned to the U.S. Army infantry but eventually moved to the airborne.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Speranza details how he joined the 101st airborne after D-Day and the failure of Operation Market Garden in Holland, what it was like to be rushed to the Battle of the Bulge in brutally cold temperatures, and what he accomplished as a machine gunner during the battle.

    Finally, Speranza recounts his legendary effort to find beer during the battle for his wounded friend. And he tells us about his return to Bastogne decades later, during which he discovered he was a local legend.

    Sadly, Vincent Speranza died in 2023. But the service and stories of the Beer Man of Bastogne live on!

  • Lester Schrenk joined the U.S. Army Air Forces on his 19th birthday in November 1942. Even though he still sees perfectly today, he was told he could not become a pilot due to poor eyesight. So this Minnesota farm kid was assigned as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 bomber crew. At 5'11", he was much bigger than most men tasked with squeezing into that very tiny space. Roughly a year later, he was deployed to Europe.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Schrenk tells us what the missions were like for a ball turret gunner and he describes a harrowing mission in which his damaged bomber barely made it back to England but not all the way back to base.

    Then he shares the story of his bomber being badly damaged over Denmark in February 1944, bailing out and being immediately captured. He describes the very intense interrogation he endured from the Germans and life inside a prison camp in Lithuania

    He tells us how the Germans forced him and other prisoners on an 86-day death march as Soviet forces closed in on the prison from the east.

    Finally, Schrenk explains his diligent search to find the German pilot who crippled his plane and find out why his crippled bomber wasn't blown out of the sky before the men had a chance to get out. Decades later, he found the pilot and got his answer.

  • Roy Gleason grew up near Chicago and fell in love with baseball while watching Cubs games with his grandfather. As a young teenager, he learned he had a tremendous amount of talent. After moving to California, he soon found himself signed to the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

    In 1963, Gleason was a late-season call-up for the Dodgers, played in several games as a pinch runner and got one very memorable at-bat. After a few difficult years back in the minors, Gleason seemed poised to return to the Dodgers for the 1967 season. After a very strong spring training, he got the call-up, but not from the team. He'd been drafted by the U.S. Army.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Gleason describes the shocking shift from the field of dreams to the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam, the dangerous patrols and enemy ambushes he had to navigate, and how he longed to get back to baseball.

    He also takes us inside his actions to rescue fellow soldiers in early 1968 and the mission later that year that left him wounded and wondering what he could have done better to protect his men on that deadly day.

    Gleason was immediately evacuated for medical treatment and several prized possessions were lost, including his 1963 World Series ring. But more than 30 years later, the Dodgers made sure that story had a happy ending.

  • Louis Bourgault was 16 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor - too young to formally join the military. After his father rejected a teenage plot to go join the Canadian forces, Bourgault enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps when he turned 17. After grueling basic training at Parris Island, Bourgault was tapped as a message runner. He was soon off to San Diego and then shipped to New Zealand. After spending time loading and unloading ships at Guadalcanal, it was soon time to enter the fighting.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Bourgault gives an unvarnished look at basic training and how it prepared new Marines for war. He also describes a Japanese torpedo attack at Guadalcanal. From there, he takes into the combat on Bougainville, where Bourgault and many others fought both the Japanese and tropical ailments.

    Bourgault then shares his vivid memories of the difficulties in getting onto the beach at Iwo Jima, what he saw there, and being medicially evacuated a short time later. He also remembers seeing the U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi and what it was like to hear the war had ended several months later.

    Lastly, Mr. Bourgault shares how much it means to him that so many Americans make a point of thanking him for his service.

  • John 'Lucky" Luckadoo wanted to join the war effort against Nazi Germany even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He and a friend hatched a plan to join the service in Canada until Lucky's father refused to allow it. But his friend went through with it. After Pearl Harbor, while in his first year at college, Luckadoo joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. Before long he was assigned to be a co-pilot in the "Bloody 100th" bomb group. He would be one of the few to survive 25 missions early in the war and earn a trip home.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," 101-year-old Lucky Luckadoo takes us into his ups and downs of flight training to the challenges of co-piloting a B-17 bomber. He tells us about the mission where he nearly lost his toes to frostbite and his most harrowing mission after losing an engine while under intense anti-aircraft fire.

    Luckadoo also shares how he advanced from co-pilot to pilot to operations officer, the evolution of using fighters to keep the bombers safe, what he sees as the legacy of the Bloody 100th, and the tragic conclusion of his friend's service in the war.

  • Dakota Meyer decided to have some fun with the U.S. Marine recruiter visiting his high school. Within minutes he had a change of heart and signed up to serve. Meyer would serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a horrific day in September 2009 would change his life forever.

    In this edition of "Veterans Chronicles," Meyer shares the very difficult story of watching from a a mile away as his fellow Marines came under deadly enemy fire. Defying orders, Meyer spent the next several hours against nearly impossible odds to save and recover his fallen comrades.

    For his actions that day, Meyer received the Medal of Honor. But while sharing his story with us, Meyer explains why the medal actually made his life more difficult.