At the Veterans Breakfast Club,
Stories Unite Us.
Check out our online & in-person veterans storytelling programs and see our full event schedule below. All are welcome to join us!
Lioness – Trailer from ROCO Films on Vimeo.
Join us on Women Veterans Day June 12 for a screening of the documentary Lioness about the first women sent into combat with US forces in 2003-2004.
After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers tracked a group of Army soldiers who became known as Team Lioness. They fought alongside the Marines in some of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war.
We’ll screen the film and then talk with Daria about what she learned in making it. The screening coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces. Prior to 1948, most women only served in times of war.
There for the action. Missing from history
Lioness presents the untold story of the first group of women in U.S. history to be sent into direct ground combat, in violation of official policy. Told through intimate accounts, journal excerpts, archival footage, as well as interviews with military commanders, the film follows five women who served together for a year in Iraq.
Their candid narratives of fighting in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles form a portrait of the emotional and psychological effects of war from a female point of view. Lioness is the first film to bridge the gap between the perception and the reality of the role military women are playing in Iraq.
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Join us for a conversation with Johnny Lang, who served with Elvis Presley in the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor, 3d Armored Division, at Ray Barracks, Germany, in 1958-1960. Johnny’s new book, My Army Days with Elvis: Friendship, Football & Follies, tells of hijinks and warm friendship with The King of Rock n’ Roll as the Cold War heated up in Europe. Johnny can tell you what Elvis was really like, in private, and we’ll discuss the impact of Elvis’s induction and service on his career and popular music.
Sponsored by Tobacco Free Adagio Health
Join us for a conversation with the remarkable, soon-to-be 102-year-old, Phil Horowitz, a lively and charismatic voice of history. Born and raised in the Bronx, before moving to New Jersey chicken farm, Phil was drafted into the Army and served as an MP in Company C, 202nd Engineer Combat Battalion. He was eye-witness to the World War II in New York, North African, Italy, France, and Germany. In New York, he investigated possible German sabotage of the SS Normandie and patrolled hydroelectric lines on the St. Lawrence River. Overseas, his company landed in North Africa, then followed the infantry and set up military governments in liberated villages. He participated in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, of Salerno in southern Italy in September 1943, and in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, on August 15, 1944. He was part of the Seventh Army under General Alexander Patch. When they reached Nancy, France, Phil joined General Patton’s Third Army. Along the way, Phil saluted President Franklin Roosevelt, saw Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower, enjoyed an inspiring speech by General George Patton, and escorted lots of happy German and Italian POWs heading to peace and safety in POW camps.
Come hear about WWII from a man who lived it.
Sponsored by Tobacco Free Adagio Health. Simulcast to Facebook and YouTube.
Join us as we talk with a select few Americans who in the 1960s heeded the call to serve by volunteering for Vietnam as civilian humanitarian aid workers.
In the 1960s, 416 young people traveled to Vietnam as volunteers with the IVS–International Voluntary Services. IVSrs, as they called themselves, worked in small teams and lived with the people in rural villages throughout South Vietnam. IVS volunteers brought US technical know-how to agriculture and infrastructure, building bridges, digging canals, helping with plant cultivation and animal husbandry. They taught school, delivered healthcare, and consulted with non-Vietnamese “Montangards” in remote mountain villages.
The US military saw the IVS as part of the larger effort to “win hearts and minds,” building goodwill among peasants who might otherwise be recruited to the Viet Cong’s struggle against the US-backed government of South Vietnam.
This official US support made the IVS a target. As the war escalated, the dangers faced by these youthful idealists did also. By the late 1960s, a large number of IVS volunteers in Vietnam began to see the US war effort as harmful to ordinary South Vietnamese villagers.
Joining us are two former IVSrs Richard Berliner and JanStephen Cavanaugh, who served in Vietnam during the war. JanStephen has recently published his memoir, A Bloodied Tapestry.
We also welcome Jill Hunting, whose brother, IVS volunteer Peter M. Hunting, died in an ambush in the Mekong Delta in 1965. Pete was the first US civilian killed in the war. Jill tells Pete’s story and that of her own grieving family in the moving saga, Finding Pete: Rediscovering the Brother I Lost in Vietnam.
The IVS was a private nonprofit with strong ties to the Christian Pacifist tradition of the Quakers, Mennonites, and Church of the Brethren. It flourished in the wake of World War II and the wild success of the Marshall Plan. President John F. Kennedy’s stirring call to service bolstered interest in the IVS’s mission to improve the lot of those suffering from poverty and war around the world.
The Vietnam War inspired the IVS to expand its operations to Southeast Asia. The humanitarian crisis unfolding there drew an intrepid few who sought to provide relief, support, and development assistance amidst the devastation of war.
We’ll talk with Richard, JanStephen, and Jill about their experiences during the Vietnam War and the impact those experiences had on the rest of their lives.
Safe to say, the war challenged the beliefs of those who served in the IVS and forced all to confront the grim reality of war’s destruction.
JanStephen, for one, still believes we can make the choice to let go of the injustice and ego that create war. He is still hopeful that together we can make the collective choice to turn our backs on war so we may progress and find greater meaning and compassion in our existence. This pursuit is what motivates Cavanaugh and inspired him to revisit this hell, so that we may finally experience the harmony that comes from humanity living in an age of peace.
101-year-old Ed Cottrell flew 65 missions in Europe in a P-47 Thunderbolt with 48th Fighter Group, 493rd Fighter Squadron in 1944-1945. He joins VBC Happy Hour to talk about his experiences in World War II and in the decades after when he served in the Air Force Reserves, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
How he survived the war against Germany is still a mystery. One mission, during the Battle of the Bulge, on December 17, 1944, especially puzzles him.
Ed was a student at Slippery Rock University in Western Pennsylvania when he first got his pilot’s license. During his Junior year in 1943, the Air Corps called him to active duty. Before shipping overseas, he married his college sweetheart, Millie.
Based in France and Belgium, Ed did all kinds of flying, including a skip bombing mission in Germany, where 12 P-47s flew treetop level at 300 mph to bomb entrenched Germans who were preventing an American advance. It was a success, though about every plane returned with bullet-riddled bellies.
On December 17, his mission was to take out Tiger tanks east of Cologne headed to Bastogne. The Germans had just launched a devastating surprise attack on Allied lines the day before. The Battle of the Bulge, as it became known, was the largest US forces would face in Europe.
Taking out tanks on the move required dive-bombing, flying in low, dropping ordnance, and pulling up fast.
Just as Ed pulled his P-47 up from the dive, a pack of enemy ME-109 planes appeared.
“Bandit at One O’Clock!” Ed called to his squadron commander.
The bandit–a 109–turned toward Ed’s plane and fired its 20mm cannon. The blast struck Ed’s engine. Oil splattered over his windshield.
Ed flung open the canopy and radioed that he was going to head as far toward home as he could, chugging along at 120 mph.
Then, he looked left. Another German 109 was bearing down. On the right, still another. Ed and his plane were as good as gone.
The two German fighter pilots crisscrossed behind E’d P-47. Expecting to be shot, Ed was surprised with the enemy planes flew right up next to him and escorted him back to Allied lines.
The Germans “used their thumbs and first fingers to make a little circle and peeled off. That was the signal they were leaving me,” Ed explains. “‘Good luck and God bless’” was the message.
Disoriented and concerned about engine failure, Ed called on the radio for a nearby landing field. Just as he touched down, the engine seized. He made a dead-stick landing and rolled to a stop.
He climbed out of the cockpit and kissed the ground. A lot of other pilots and crew members weren’t so lucky that day. One of Ed’s roommates, 2nd Lt. Art Sommers, was one of the casualties. He never returned from the mission.
Join our conversation with Ed as he shares this story and many others from his long and heroic life.