Arizona PBS tells veterans’ stories for Memorial Day

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day, which was first commemorated as Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery. This year, Arizona PBS marks the occasion with the annual “National Memorial Day Concert” and other special programming.

National Memorial Day Concert

In an annual PBS tradition, Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise will host the “National Memorial Day Concert” live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday, May 27 at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. America’s national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances.

We’ll recognize Korean War veterans through the story of two buddies, Joe Annello and Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, dear friends now for 68 years, who helped each other survive deadly combat during the Korean War, endured the unimaginable as POWs and became American heroes — one receiving the Silver Star and the other the Medal of Honor.

Women have served our nation in times of war and peace since our country’s founding, well before they were officially allowed to enlist. We’ll mark the 70th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act through the story of Silver Star recipient Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman to receive the Silver Star for combat. The segment will conclude by honoring women representing the generations of service since WWII and all five branches of the military on stage.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Khe Sanh, one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War. The show will feature the story of Purple Heart recipient Bill Rider, who was part of the battalion known as “The Walking Dead.” When he returned home, Bill faced another kind of battle in his struggle with post-traumatic stress. As part of his healing process, Bill found a way to pay it forward by dedicating his life to helping generations of service men and women who have experienced the trauma of war.

The all-star line-up also features distinguished American leader General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.) and musical performances by actor and country singer Charles Esten (“Nashville”); Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning actress and singer Cynthia Erivo (“The Color Purple”); three-time Grammy Award-nominee singer/songwriter Leona Lewis; Tony-nominee and “Smash” star Megan Hilty; acclaimed tenor and Broadway star Alfie Boe (“Les Misérables”); and Gary Sinise & The Lt. Dan Band, marking 15 years and over 400 concerts entertaining our troops, veterans and military families; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly.

Also participating in the event are the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff with The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Chorus and Army Voices, The Soldiers Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, The U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, The U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, the Armed Forces Color Guard and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, DC.

Going to War

On Monday, May 28, at 8 p.m., on Memorial Day itself, Arizona PBS will premiere “Going to War,” a new 60-minute documentary about what it means to serve in and return from war. War correspondent and author Sebastian Junger, Vietnam War veteran and author Karl Marlantes, and other veterans share their candid accounts of life before, during and after combat.

“Going to War” explores the paradox of war: a painful and horrific experience that also brings exhilaration, purpose, connection — and even love. The film features two acclaimed storytellers of war—journalist and author Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm” and director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Restrepo”; and Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes, author of the best-selling Vietnam combat novel “Matterhorn” and “What It Is Like to Go to War.”

Joining Junger and Marlantes are veterans from various American wars who bring first-hand accounts and an abiding commitment to telling the warrior’s story with sensitivity and candor. “Going to War” captures the gritty mental and physical transformation of troops in training and follows them into the transformative experience of combat. By delving into the psychologically complex world of warfare and its aftermath, the film reveals the challenges service members face when they return home and rejoin civilian society, revisit their life goals and aspirations, and ultimately redefine themselves.

“We like to think of war as an aberration — but there’s scarcely been a time or a culture when humankind has not been at war. It’s universal,” said Junger. “We try really hard to keep combat at a distance, but when we talk about war, we are talking about what it means to be human.”

Independent Lens “Served Like a Girl”

Premiering on Monday, May 28, at 9 p.m., “Served Like a Girl” is a powerful and poignant look at a group of diverse female veterans as they transition from active duty to civilian life after serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Struggling with PTSD, homelessness, broken families, serious illness, physical injuries and military sexual abuse, these inspiring women find ways to adapt to the challenges they face through participation in the “Ms. Veteran America” competition. Guided by event founder and veteran Major Jas Boothe, the women work hard to prepare for the competition, and, in the process, recover parts of their identities they had lost on the battlefield.

Wounded U.S. female service personnel often return home to a stark reality. Many face debilitating emotional, social and economic challenges. The Ms. Veteran America competition was established in 2012 to encourage women veterans to recognize and support their sisters as they return to civilian life. More than a vehicle for shared recovery, the competition’s main mission is to raise funds and awareness for America’s 55,000 homeless women veterans, a goal that resonates strongly with the women profiled in the film.

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