Frankie Kuzuguk, 82, gets a hug from his daughter Marilyn Kuzuguk at Quyanna Care Center in Nome, Alaska, after receiving an official honorable discharge and a distinguished service coin from visiting Veterans Affairs officials. The VA is still tracking down the few surviving members of the World War II Alaska Territorial Guard or delivering benefits to their next of kin.
Daniel K. Omedelena, 71, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1968-69. A disproportionate number of veterans live in rural, sometimes remote parts of the country, like Wales, Alaska. As the veteran population ages, their health care needs increase, but many have not even filed claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
When he was in Vietnam, Isaac Oxereok's small build made him ideal for tunnel-ratting: running with a pistol and a flashlight into underground passages built by the Viet Cong. In 1967 he finished his tour with the Army and returned home to Wales, Alaska. Oxereok knew he wasn't quite right, but there wasn't anyone around to tell him how to get help.
"Post-traumatic syndrome?" he said. "I went through that I guess, mostly on my own. Some wounds never really show. So inside was kind of messed up."
Now, the story of a fallen hero. Chris Kyle was known as one of the best snipers in the history of the American military. In February, the former Navy SEAL was shot and killed, but his death did not come on the battlefield. It happened at home in Texas, at the hands of another veteran, a former Marine named Eddie Ray Routh. In the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine, Nicholas Schmidle traces the intersecting paths of these two men.
On June 5, 1944, Jake McNiece (right) led a group of paratroopers in World War II. After he shaved his head and painted his face before dropping behind German lines for D-Day, the look caught on with his men.
Sixteen million men and women served in uniform during World War II. Today, 1.2 million are still alive, but hundreds of those vets are dying every day. In honor of Memorial Day, NPR's All Things Considered is remembering some of the veterans who have died this year.
The Dirty Dozen was a Hollywood hit, but it was based — loosely — on a true-to-life WWII paratrooper regiment. Jake McNiece led the group, whose exploits inspired the 1967 movie and earned the nickname "The Filthy Thirteen." McNiece died in January at the age of 93.