Ron Smith, WEKU news

It’s safe to say Kentucky journalist Al Smith has led a full life. During his teenage years, he was an award-winning writer and speaker.  But, then, Smith nearly sank in the sea of alcoholism. He recovered to become a successful newspaper owner, the head of the Appalachian Regional Commission, and for 33 years, Smith hosted “Comment on Kentucky” on Kentucky Educational Television. The soon-to-be 85 year-old has collected his memories in a new book, “WORDSMITH, My Life in Journalism.”  WEKU’S  Ron Smith spoke with him… 

The last 14 months of Ulysses S. Grant’s life were difficult to say the least. He lost all of his wealth in a Wall Street swindle. Then the former president learned he had terminal mouth and throat cancer.  Facing family ruin, Grant decided to write his military memoirs.   Richmond author Bracelen Flood chronicles events in his new book, “Grant’s Final Victory”…Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year.” Flood spoke with WEKU’S  Ron Smith about the memoirs origins…  

Ron Smith / WEKU News

Eastern Kentucky University was among more than 180 colleges and universities to observe the Remembrance Day National Roll Call. Starting early this morning, campus and community volunteers read the names of all the casualties of the conflicts.  

A WEKU Veterans Day Special: 11-11-11

Nov 11, 2011
Nunn Center, University of Kentucky

Veterans of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home.  Withdrawals are underway in both countries.  While the wars are winding down, their legacy will live on in America through their veterans.   Over the last ten years, an estimated two-point-three million Americans fought in those wars.  Today, we hear about their experience through the stories told by eight Kentuckians.

Nunn Center, University of Kentucky

The adjustment to military life was relatively easy for Rebecca Stinsky.  Her mother, stepfather, and siblings all wore service uniforms.  Their experience encouraged her to join Navy junior ROTC in high school.  After graduation it was a natural progression to the Marines.  As an aviation mechanic Stinsky wanted to work on the ‘biggest, baddest helicopters the Corps had to offer.”  But Stinsky found out maintaining a military helicopter and filling in as a door gunner were two very different jobs.

Improvements in service are planned for Kentucky Utility and Louisville Gas and Electric customers.  The Kentucky Public Service Commission plan hopes will address numerous customer complaints.  An independent audit found numerous faults with the utilities, ranging from mistaken meter reading to unresponsive call center.  Commission spokesman Andrew Melnykovych predicts KU and LGE customers will notice an improvement.

"11-11-11, a Veterans Day Special" on 88.9 WEKU

Nov 8, 2011

War stories as told by 9 student-veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are broadcast Friday on 88.9 WEKU. “11-11-11, A Veterans Day Special” offers stories told by veterans who now attend Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky.

Nunn Center, University of Kentucky

Jonathan Herst was the stereotypical big man on campus. He went to college on an athletic scholarship, and admits to spending a lot of time partying and chasing girls. But after getting his undergraduate degree in 2001, Herst felt something was missing in his life. He decided to do something, as he puts it, “for a bigger cause.” So he joined the Army and was eventually sent to Iraq. By 2005, Herst had survived many dangerous patrols without a scratch. But as his squad neared the end of one mission in 2005, Herst felt something bad was going to happen.

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Marines are trained to fight proficiently with deadly weapons.  But when an unarmed mob in Iraq turned violent, such weapons were literally overkill.  Kentuckian Noah Melgar found himself in just such a situation.   As a military policeman with the Marines, Melgar had to fight hand-to-hand.

52 year-old Rocco Pepe has had numerous military deployments. Too many campaigns, he says, to name.  His 20 year career with the Marines began in 1976, followed by several years in the Air National Guard.  Today Pepe’s an officer with the Georgetown/ Scott County Emergency Management Agency.  He boasts about seeing 35 percent of the world without paying a penny for transportation.  The veteran grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, in sight of the New York City skyline. Despite the cosmopolitan surroundings and his military travels, the veteran is not immune to culture shock, abroad, and in the U-S…

Libyans living in Kentucky are celebrating the demise of dictator Moammar Gaddafi. The Libyan strongman was killed Thursday in fighting with rebels. Lexington businessman Ibrahim Bakoush says Gaddafi’s death brings closure to decades of atrocities. Libyans now, he says, are looking ahead. “Now it should be their concentration, what’s my future, what’s my kids’s future, how I can manage my kid’s future, there is a bright future for my kids, that’s what I’m hoping for,” said Bakoush.

Nunn Center for Oral History / University of Kentucky

Some casualties of war are the minds of soldiers thrown into combat. Travis Martin is such a case. As an 18 year-old, the Somerset, Kentucky native found himself driving heavy trucks in Iraq. The target of several ambushes, the soldier suffered head and shoulder wounds when his vehicle ran over a roadside bomb.  For two years his hands shook uncontrollably, and his personality changed for the worse. He was not diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, but insists he’s a victim of P-T-S-D. After two tours of duty, Martin earned a master’s degree in English literature at Eastern Kentucky University.  In the latest in our series on student veterans, Martin talks about coping with severe anxiety…

Police are conducting an arson investigation at Eastern Kentucky University.  Authorities say at about 4:13 am Thursday, hallway bulletin boards were set on fire on two floors of the 20-story Commonwealth Hall. The fires caused minor damage to the walls, but a sprinkler system was activated and the building was evacuated. The dorm houses 422 students. A major event on campus just two weeks ago stressed fire safety. Richmond Fire Department spokesman Corey Lewis thinks some people didn’t get the message.

Fighting a war often immerses a soldier in a foreign environment and culture. That was the case for Phil McKenzie, the latest in a long line of McKenzies who served in the military.  As a 20 year-old Bradley tank driver, the eastern Kentucky native and Tennessee National Guard member, recalls his first impressions of Iraq, its first real election after the American invasion, and the bomb that wasn’t…

With wireless internet almost fact of life, there remain sections of America where residents don’t have fast and easy access to the internet.  The Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg next week co-hosts a discussion on how improve broadband internet service in central Appalachia.  Center spokesman Tim Marema says access to digital communication is a modern must.

These tight economic times could tempt some companies to cut back on workplace safety. Kentucky Labor Secretary Mark Brown says that may mean spending less such things as protective equipment and training sessions. Brown understands business concerns but insists there’s no substitute for safety.

Nunn Center, University of Kentucky

As a 19 year-old Army paratrooper, Jeremy Bowen was thrust into the bloody battle of Falluja, Iraq. In comments made as part of the University of Kentucky’s oral history project with student veterans, “From Combat to Kentucky”, Bowen recalls a night mission in an area nicknamed “Little Detroit” when he and his team shot two insurgents.

Thirty-five percent of college students from Eastern Kentucky come from backgrounds where there’s little diversity of race, religion, and culture. At a diversity breakfast Wednesday, Eastern Kentucky University President Doug Whitlock asked those students a blunt question. “If you’re not exposed to people who look different from you, have a faith that is different from yours, might have sexual orientation than you do, have different political thought than you do, how are you going to be able to think critically if everybody you meet looks like you, thinks like you and believes like you?”, asked Whitlock.

The mother of a Murray State University student killed in a 1998 dormitory fire is involved in a new project that promotes fire safety on campus. After Michael Minger’s death, Gail Minger pressed Kentucky lawmakers to pass laws making sprinkler systems mandatory in all state university residence halls. But the law does not apply to all colleges. Speaking at Eastern Kentucky University today Minger said that deficiency needs to be corrected.

University of Kentucky

The teamwork mentality required in football can ease a transition into the military. In the latest installment of our series of interviews based on the University of Kentucky’s oral history project, “From Combat to Kentucky,” WEKU’S Ron Smith focuses on a walk-on football player turned soldier…

The stage is set for Saturday’s inaugural performance at Eastern Kentucky University’s new Center for the Arts. Executive Director Debra Hoskins says ticket sales for Saturday’s performance by Kentuckian Wynonna Judd have been unbelievable. “The support that the Center has gotten from Madison Countians, from Lexington, from the entire region has just been unbelievable. I am so proud of the people in this area who are supporting this venture and all that they’re doing to make sure that it’s a continued success”, said Hoskins.

The Nunn Center, University of Kentucky

America’s war on terror features familiar images of soldiers in body armor, Humvees and attack helicopters.  Submerged in war coverage is the role played by submarines and their crews.  In the latest installment of our series of interviews based on the University of Kentucky’s oral history project, “From Combat to Kentucky,” WEKU’S  Ron Smith has memories from a submariner…

The Nunn Center

Kentucky veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are telling their stories while they’re still fresh in their minds. The recollections are the basis for an oral history project at the University of Kentucky, “From Combat to Kentucky.” Beginning this month WEKU will air capsule versions of the original interviews.  Today, we profile Army Reservist Stephanie Murphy, a veteran of the Iraq war.

In good weather, retired clergyman Bob Vickers spends much of his time driving his snazzy, green sports car with the top down. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, Vickers, then Director of the Chaplaincy for the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, was in a van headed to New York, to counsel victims of the attacks. As he approached the city, Vickers was overwhelmed by the sight of billowing smoke, and the silence. “In the far distance you could hear a few sirens, but it was just, it was eerie. It was like another world that I could not imagine”, recalled Vickers. Vickers spent the next two weeks in New York counseling first responders and others. He remembers two firefighters in particular.

The 10th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks is burned in our memories.  WEKU reporter Ron Smith  says the occasion is  meaningful on several levels to a Richmond man. Many Americans shared Mustapha Jourdini’s initial reaction to the events of 9-11. “Aaaaahhh…it’s, it’s very depressing actually, since I heard the news, I’m psychologically depressed,” recalled Jourdini.  At the time of that September 12th, 2001 interview, Jourdini was a 24 year-old Eastern Kentucky University student. Today he’s academic advisor in EKU’s Honors program. Jourdini, who’s a native of Morocco, was not only saddened by the loss of life that day.

For Libyans living in Lexington, it’s not another August day but more like the 4th of July.  With rebel victory over dictator Moammar Gaddafi seemingly at hand, emotions are running high. A Libyan expatriate in Lexington has no words to describe his feelings amid rebel gains in his homeland.  Ibrahim El Bakoush has been waiting for the Gadhafi regime to fall for decades.

Classes begin next week at Eastern Kentucky University, but a combination pep rally/reality check took place Monday on the Richmond campus. The fall annual convocation drew hundreds of faculty and staff. President Doug Whitlock says to expect about 16-thousand-500 students. Although that’s about the same as last year, Whitlock sees positives in the numbers.

A federally funded program based at Eastern Kentucky University is helping rural communities across the country prepare for emergencies and disasters. Consortium director Amy Hughes says the program is meeting a real need.

For many Kentuckians, next Saturday will literally be a day to remember.  Hundreds of motorcyclists and others from around the state are expected to converge on Lawrenceburg to honor Kentucky National Guard members killed in the line of duty. Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund Board member Jason Lemay recalls a man who died in the great flood of 1937.

Ron Smith / WEKU News

Berea has a history of being in the forefront of social change, but an effort to protect citizens based on their sexual orientation faces an uncertain future.  WEKU’S Ron Smith has the story. This report contains language that’s objectionable to many people.