From Senior Producer Luke Heikkila who shares a first look with us about a new project he’s begun work on related to Veterans…
“Doran is a Veteran of the Vietnam War. Last Tuesday, he and I met in Minneapolis so I could interview him for a program I’m producing about homelessness among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. Doran is in his 60s. He’s fit and trim. He has kind eyes and a positive spirit.
Doran works with Veterans. He helps Veterans who are in crisis. He told me about what he does for them. He summed it up in two words, ‘I listen,’ he said.
The Veterans he encounters can feel alone, they can feel a loss of the sense of camaraderie they had while they were in the service. Sometimes they lose their sense of place. Sometimes they feel like they are missing purpose in their life. These voids can erroneously be filled with alcohol or drugs.
Doran helps Veterans find and pick up the pieces so they can begin to do what he’s done.
After he returned from his deployment in support of the Vietnam War, Doran spent 30 years homeless in Detroit, Michigan. While we spoke, he claimed to have been around every sort of debauchery. He traveled from couch to couch and drank everything from wine to beer to vodka to rum. He was adrift and lost. The image he was painting of his past was the polar opposite from the distinguished gentleman sitting across from me.
When clients call on him at the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, his experiences in Detroit help him understand where they’re coming from. ‘I don’t B.S. them,’ he said. ‘I don’t just give them a number to call, I listen.’
During the interview, I was the one listening to him. In the hour we were together, I found myself hanging on his words. He didn’t speak in cliches, he didn’t have an agenda, he had real, honest words about how he hopes to help our current era’s Veterans come home and succeed. He doesn’t want to see Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans struggle in the ways he and his battle buddies did.
Not every Veteran coming home is going to be facing a housing crisis. As this production continues, I’ll learn about the percentage of Veterans who will never need assistance; I don’t know the figures now, but it’s a safe bet the vast majority will not need help. But as First Lady Michelle Obama said on June 4, 2014 to an audience at the White House on why she was kicking off the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, ‘when a Veteran comes home kissing the ground, it is unacceptable that he should ever need to sleep on it.’ To see the video Mrs. Obama talking about Doran’s story, watch the video below and start at the 30-minute mark:
When I asked Doran about his time at the White House with Mrs. Obama, he smiled and said, ‘having the second-most powerful person in the world say your name is unbelievable.’
I look forward to introducing Doran to a wider audience. This program, which to-date doesn’t have a title, will premiere in the Fall of 2014.”
For more information about this upcoming program we’re working on with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), keep an eye on us here and on our social platforms for all the latest information (TPT’s MN Productions & Partnerships on Facebook | @tptMN on Twitter). We will announce a premiere broadcast as soon as it is available.
This program is part of Veterans Coming Home, a public media effort to support veterans made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Learn more about tpt programming and local resources for Veterans at veterans.tpt.org.