Family is a big aspect of military service. From those servicemen and women leave behind to their new brothers and sisters in arms, finding people to care for is an important part of the job. Chris Weir – featured in “American Veteran” – knows the importance of family all too well; he followed in their footsteps when joining up. Every man in his family had taken the oath, including his younger brother David. Weir’s younger brother was killed in combat in Baghdad, which left him with an intense desire to “… finish what his brother started.”
Weir joined up in 2008, leaving his wife and two kids behind to serve. He worked as a supply sergeant and ensured that his unit had everything it needed to survive on post. Weir found the work to be tedious when not interrupted by the chaos of war. Following his brother to Iraq meant a lot to him. “I’m the only person in my family able to stand in the last place he stood,” Weir said. Following his service, Weir returned home to find a very appreciative and patriotic community.
Arkansan Boyd Burkholder was another veteran who followed his family’s footsteps into service. After finishing high school, Burkholder was not quite ready to go to college. He, instead, decided to enlist, seeing as there was an ongoing draft at the time anyway.
From the “shock and awe” of basic training to experiencing the beauty of Vietnam, Burkholder’s life was forever changed after joining the military. However, Burkholder was there for war. He and his squad carried out various search and destroy missions. Losing people became the hardest part of the job, Burkholder shared in this “Vietnam War” testimonial. A large factor was that they knew one another’s families back home and did not want to bring any pain into their lives either.
Shoshana Johnson – featured in “American Veteran” – joined the army as part of a six-month plan to save some money and lose some weight. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Panama, and her father enlisted upon arrival and became a drill sergeant. She became a food service specialist in Iraq in 2003 but had reservations about deployment as a single mother. Still, Johnson felt compelled to fulfill her duty.
The first month there, Johnson’s convoy was ambushed; 11 soldiers were killed, and Johnson was injured and captured alongside five others. She was held for 22 days, becoming the first Black, female prisoner of war in U.S. military history. After being rescued and returning home, Johnson’s life was forever changed by the experience. She used the G.I. Bill to attend culinary school and wrote a memoir, “I’m Still Standing.” Her only regret about her service was that more of her fellow soldiers did not make it back home.
Arkansan Fred Camacho enlisted following high school and joined the Air Force. One of the few who qualified for air penetrable, Camacho carried out search and destroy missions in Vietnam. Camacho found the best aspect of service to be the ability to experience different cultures and “… get out of your own world.”
Tuesdays at 8 p.m. through Nov. 16, 2021
Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021
Our veterans’ lives are worth fighting for, and that struggle is intensifying as suicide rates rise.
Share your questions about veteran suicide prevention with our “Worth Fighting For” expert panel for a chance to hear them answered on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m.
Biweekly episodes Sept. 7, 2021, - Jan. 11, 2022
Accompanying the “American Veteran” television specials is a 10-part digital video series produced by Blue Chalk. Called “American Veteran: Keep It Close,” it features veterans discussing items they brought with them during their service and those they brought back home. This series highlights the human tendency to have keepsakes and will help to bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. The series will be posted on the PBS Voices YouTube Channel bi-weekly from Sept. 7 through Jan. 11.
Tuesdays through Dec. 14
Another aspect of the “American Veteran” project is an accompanying podcast series. It will include nine episodes that each feature a different veteran discussing their time in the military. The series features a variety of stories, ranging from an Army nurse serving in Vietnam to a satellite technician serving as a gay man during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. The podcasts are hosted by Phil Klay, a Marine Corps veteran featured in the “American Veteran” television series and can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Audible. A new podcast will be posted every Tuesday until Dec. 14.
Arkansas PBS has also compiled a list of our veteran content to celebrate those who served. This includes a variety of content from different programs about veterans from programs and projects including “Veterans Coming Home,” “The Vietnam War” and more. Explore content from Arkansas Vietnam veterans sharing their stories to interesting programs started to help veterans. To learn more about local veterans, please, feel free to browse our content here.
Funding for "American Veteran" is provided by The Wexner Family Charitable Fund, Battelle Memorial Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Analog Devices.