walter reed medical center

From Producer Ann Marie Baldonado:

Terry always says it’s difficult to pick favorite interviews, and I totally agree.  I can’t even remember the interview I worked on this week or what we have booked for next week (That’s a slight exaggeration.  This week I worked on Jill Soloway.  Next week it’s Hasan Minaj.)  Still, I will try to point out a few interviews that I will always remember when forced to go through my mental archives.

David Rakoff 
A lot of public radio listeners will remember the late David Rakoff from his work on This American Life.  In 2001, he talked to Terry about his acting career, and being frustrated by the roles that were offered to him.  He said they would fall under two categories – “Jew-y McHebrew’ or ‘Fudgy McPacker.’  He did dramatic/hysterical renditions of the lines he remembered.  He was so funny, and elicited the much sought after Terry “snort.”  Now, I have laughed a lot while logging interviews on Fresh Air, but during this one, I had to stop logging because I was crying from laughing so hard.  Fresh Air replayed this part of the interview when Rakoff passed away too soon in 2012.

Thelma Schoonmaker 
I first stated booking film, TV, and theater interviews for Terry in the spring of 2005, so this is an early one.  Schoonmaker is the film editor who has worked with Martin Scorsese for over 40 years.  She has edited all of his films since Raging Bull in 1980.  She’s just this wonderful, thoughtful artist who works behind the scenes, plugging away, making great films.  Terry’s interview with her was one smart lady who loves movies talking to another smart lady who loves movies.

Originally posted by orwell

Mike Mills

I have loved booking directors, actors, and comedians early in their careers and watching their bodies of work grow.  People like Lena Dunham, Flight of the Conchords, and Hari Kondobolu come to mind. I have loved booking interviews with director Mike Mills over the years. We booked him after his first film Thumbsucker in 2005, then for his movies Beginners and 20th Century Women.  He is the ideal guest: open, smart, self-deprecatingly funny, and talks so well about how his work connects to his life, a favorite Fresh Air theme.  I feel their conversations about his films, that in reality are like love letters to his parents, end up leading to larger conversations between Terry and Mike,  about their parents who they have lost.

Originally posted by rizsahmed

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang
This one is a little more current.  I am not alone in this but one of my favorite recent TV shows has to be Master of None.   Some of the episodes from that first season (Parents and Indians on TV) live on my list of favorite episodes of TV ever.  I loved hearing friends Aziz and Alan talk about their own lives and how they incorporated their experiences into the show.  Everyone loves Aziz; I am glad we were able to have Alan on too.  We should forever thank them not just for this show, but for their work on Parks and Recreation.  And this is just one of the interviews that covered these great, really personal shows based on the lives of a great comedian, sort of the antecedents of Louie.  I am glad in the last few years, we have featured interviews with people like Aziz and Alan, Donald Glover, Issa Rae, and Rachel Bloom.

Sacha Baron Cohen 
I am proud of booking this one.  Up until this point, Sacha Baron Cohen was very committed to staying in character as Borat while doing all the promotion of his movie.  We were so happy that he agreed to do Fresh Air as himself, thus revealing that he was this accessible, intelligent guy.  He was quick to slip into his Borat voice though.  We love when guests slip into their characters’ voices.

Originally posted by balaidegatoteam

Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
It was a round about way to book an interview.  The movie The Bang Bang Club, starring Taylor Kitsch and Ryan Phillippe, told the story of a group of war photographers in South Africa during Apartheid.  We used the movie as an excuse to book an interview with Marinovich and Silva, two of the real photographers who inspired the film.  Both of them had lost dear friends to the work.  And both of them had been injured while trying to visually capture combat situations.  In fact,  Silva was recording his part of the interview from Walter Reed Army Medical Center; he had lost both of his legs in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan and was still recovering.  At one point, a nurse comes in to talk to Silva.  It was such a rare radio moment that we decided to leave it in the interview.  Terry has spoken to many war correspondents and photographers over the years. These interviews are inevitably harrowing, tragic, thoughtful, and moving.

Ann Marie Baldonado, Fresh Air producer 

PS. Ann Marie sometimes does interviews. Her latest was with SNL’s Sasheer Zamata.

Platon, Sgt. Tim Johannsen and his wife, Jacquelyne Kay, in a rehabilitation unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Johannsen spent 2½ years at Walter Reed after losing both of his legs on his second tour in Iraq. 2008.

Casualty Notification

Let me start this by saying I don’t have any experience with our current President and compassionate calls to surviving family members. I do, however, have several experiences with both Presidents Bush and Obama in this area. I was severely injured in June of 2006, and spent the better part of the rest of the year in hospitals. I lost a total of three soldiers from my company during that deployment, and thank God, they haven’t lost any more since then. While I was in Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) both President Bush, and vice-President Cheney came to visit. At both hospitals. Not only that, but they actually remembered me enough to ask intelligent follow up questions on the second visits. Hell, Mr. Cheney invited me out for lunch a year later! My mom got to tag along, and she became friends with Lynn Cheney as a result. They still stay in touch. I can speak intelligently about two of the guys that we lost. One was from Texas, so I’ve been to visit his grave a number of times. I know for a fact that President Bush visited there AFTER he left office, and has been in contact with his family during the last eight years. I also know for a fact that President Obama never made any contact with either of the families in question. One of my other guys is from New Hampshire, and the same applies to his family. President Bush has sent both families condolence cards on the anniversary of their deaths, every year since. He even helped one of the Gold Star mothers get a job at her local VA medical center. The only contact I, or anyone else that I know personally, had with President Obama, was indirect. My retirement certificate has his signature on it, but I don’t know if it’s his actual signature or an auto pen. I’m trying not to make any judgements based on rumor or innuendo, so I’ll stick to my personal experience and the experiences of my friends. So, with that as my criteria, I firmly believe that President Bush had a much, much closer relationship with his military than his successor. I’ve never seen more love for a CINC, and it crossed all boundaries- political, class, race, sex etc. There was a lot of love for President Obama from the black soldiers I knew, at first. By the end of his first term, that had pretty much disappeared. Especially from combat arms soldiers. I get the distinct impression from the guys I know that are still on active duty that they really love President Trump, and that’s not going to change any time soon.


Surgery von Army Medicine
Über Flickr:
A medical team performs three-dimensional minimally invasive surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., (Photo by John Chew)

Colin Kaepernick can’t “truly celebrate” America.

Colin Kaepernick can’t get out of his own way. Any good deed he does come at the expense of bashing the United States of America.

That likely wasn’t the first line you expected to read. Instead, you probably anticipated something like this:

Colin Kaepernick sucks as a quarterback.

No, actually he doesn’t—well, once upon a very Jim Harbaugh-like time, he didn’t. In Super Bowl XLVII, he went 16-for-28, passing for 302 yards and a touchdown with another 62 yards on the ground.

He was a gazelle. He was good.

Back then he shied away from the media. In fact, he had a reputation among journalists in that locker room for not saying enough and dodging public commentary.

Now you’re probably thinking something like this:

You were a national reporter, how would you know what the local reporters witnessed?

A lot more than left-leaning sports pundits singing his praises. I was actually physically there. As a rookie network reporter and by pecking order of seniority, I often received the lesser desirable cross-country trips in 2014 for what had been a very talented San Francisco team.

Therefore, I witnessed enough of Colin Kaepernick as a starting quarterback to be taken by surprise when Colin Kaepernick the back-up quarterback suddenly held court in the locker room. Well, people change. Good for him. He found a cause, advocated beliefs and expressed them.

Just like I’m going to express mine.

First, let’s list the litany of offensive statements and/or remarks he’s made about law enforcement officers. There were the socks with pigs in police garb. There was the tweet comparing police officers to a modern day slave patrol. 

Most recently, on the Fourth of July, there was a tweet asking how Americans could “truly celebrate independence on a day that intentionally robbed our ancestors of theirs?”

I’ll tell you how, Colin. Americans can celebrate the official birth of this nation because despite all its flaws, for one day, there’s a reminder of unity no matter how many efforts you make to dismantle it.

While you focus on your philanthropic efforts, which are admirable, perhaps you can also employ that same effort to go into a voting booth. If you’re going to continually complain about the perceived slights and rights you don’t have, perhaps take the right you do have and back it up.

Personally, I can “truly celebrate” Independence Day because it’s a reminder of the brave men and women protecting our country. Critics will say that’s not what the holiday is about and to an extent they’re right.

But, try telling that to a 15-year-old girl that watched with tears in her eyes, as her father deployed to Iraq for 9 months. He left his family, his civilian income, and life, as he knew it to defend a country you have such a difficult time standing for and acknowledging.

That man was my father and for 9 months I watched as my mother took on the economic hardship of being a single parent. Watching the news every day for any sign her husband might come home.

Tell that to the 5-year-old girl, gripping her father’s leg on a tarmac at Patrick Air Force Base and screaming, “Daddy don’t go.”

Tell that to the men at Walter Reed Medical Center who are missing limbs.

Some service members have tweeted they fought for Kaepernick, myself, and anyone else to have freedom of speech. They would be right. But the people who do love and respect those service members can stick up for them, whether they ask for it or not.

You are the true heroes of this country. My admiration will always go towards the men and women who have walked away from their loved ones, through fields of IEDs, and into the dangerous unknown.

It will never go to the athlete who takes a knee after losing his starting job.

When doing your Christmas cards, take one and send it to this address: A Recovering American Soldier c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center 6900 Georgia Avenue NW; Washington, D.C. 20307. If we pass this on, think of how many cards these wonderful special people would get. PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS. {JUST COPY AND PASTE TO YOUR WALL IF YOU AGREE.} Thank you to all those that have served and are currently serving 🇺🇸💜

Blister: The Day Calvin Coolidge Lost His Favorite Son and His Passion for the Presidency

Early in the day on June 30, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gathered his family at the White House for a series of photographs.  The President and his wife, Grace, stood in the center of one photograph, with Rob Roy, one of their beloved dogs between them.  The Coolidge’s oldest son, John, stood closest to Grace.  Although he was not quite 18 years old, John looked serious and mature, which is how he acted, as well.  Like his father, John Coolidge would grow to be a man of few words, and he was already off to a quiet start.

President Coolidge had assumed the Presidency almost a year earlier.  Elected as Warren G. Harding’s Vice President, Calvin Coolidge was visiting his father’s farmhouse in Plymouth, Vermont on August 2, 1923 when a messenger arrived notifying him that President Harding had suddenly died in San Francisco.  Coolidge’s father – a notary public – administered the Presidential oath of office to his son.  The new President then went back to sleep.  When asked how he felt about assuming the Presidency, Coolidge would later say, “I thought I could swing it." 

Coolidge quickly took the reigns of government, cleaned out the corrupt members of Harding’s Cabinet, and was presiding over a stable, prosperous nation.  Just two weeks before the photos were taken at the White House, the Republicans had officially made Coolidge their 1924 Presidential nominee.  The popular President was happy, healthy, enjoyed his job, and headed to an easy victory in his own right in November.

Standing next to the President was his namesake, Calvin Jr.  While John possessed much of his father’s reticence, 16-year-old Calvin Jr. had a lively, effervescent personality similar to their mother’s disposition.  Many people didn’t realize that President Coolidge also had a hidden mischievous streak – not a mean-spirited one, but a fun, dry sense of humor that Calvin Jr. clearly inherited.  President Coolidge doted on Calvin Jr.  Without jealousy or resentment, John Coolidge freely acknowledged that Calvin Jr. was their father’s favorite.

After a few more photographs, the teens were eager to change out of their suits and put on some less formal clothing.  Both boys were enjoying their summer vacation from school and on this final day of June, the sunny White House tennis courts looked very appealing for an afternoon match. 

While their father returned to his work inside the White House, the Coolidge brothers hit the courts on the South Grounds of the Executive Mansion.  John and Calvin Jr. battled through several games of tennis, and we can assume that they spared no effort to defeat each other – teenage boys, especially brothers separated in age by less than two years, know no other way.  Calvin Jr.’s foot started bothering him at some point, so they ended their contest and headed back inside the White House.

Calvin Jr. – whether it was from the haste of changing out of his formal clothing for the photographs or the neglect of a 16-year-old more focused on fun than safety – had competed all afternoon in tennis shoes without wearing socks.  The constant movement led to a blister on one of his toes, and while teenagers frequently develop blisters in their hectic, athletic adventures, this was different.  The blister on the toe of the President’s youngest son quickly became infected and Calvin Jr. spiked a fever.

The next few days were a blur for the President, his family, and an anxious nation.  Calvin Jr.’s blister and infection had led to severe blood poisoning.  Much like Abraham Lincoln when his favorite son was dying of typhoid fever in the midst of the Civil War, President Coolidge tried to fulfill his duties while worrying about Calvin Jr.  As the 16-year-old’s health continued to deteriorate, the President seemed to be in shock, zig-zagging constantly through the White House from his office to Calvin Jr.’s sickbed.

July 4, 1924 was the nation’s 148th birthday and President Coolidge’s 52nd birthday, but nobody was celebrating.  A day earlier, Calvin Jr. had been moved to Walter Reed Medical Center as some of the country’s top doctors tried to save the life of the President’s son.  Noting that Independence Day was his birthday, President Coolidge wrote a short letter to his father in Vermont.  "Calvin is very sick,” the President wrote, “so this is not a happy day for me."  Still holding out hope, Coolidge added, "Of course he has all that medical science can give but he may have a long sickness with ulcers, then again he may be better in a few days.”

On July 7, 1924 – just a week after the happy, healthy First Family posed for their photographs at the White House – Calvin Coolidge, Jr. died.  He was 16.

Many Americans thought of President Coolidge as the taciturn, expression-less, unemotional caricature in political cartoons and newspaper gossip, but in the day’s after Calvin Jr.’s death, everyone was stunned by the open demonstration of the President’s grief.  Coolidge wore a black armband for weeks.  Visitors to the Oval Office often found him to be inconsolable.  One friend found Coolidge sobbing at his desk while muttering “I just can’t believe it has happened…I just can’t believe it has happened."  When he received the bill for Calvin Jr.’s funeral services, the President refused to pay for several months, as if he was unable to come to terms with the fact that his son was gone.

President Coolidge was still in the middle of a Presidential campaign, but he didn’t make any effort to win votes.  To many of his friends or colleagues, it seemed as if Coolidge no longer cared.  When he easily defeated John W. Davis in November to win election in his own right, Coolidge didn’t celebrate.  The First Lady offered strength and support, but everything changed for Coolidge after Calvin Jr. died.  His health began to suffer.  Grace said that the President "lost his zest for living”.  The Coolidge’s surviving song, John, had gone off to college, and that may have compounded the President’s loneliness and depression.  In 1992, John Coolidge (who died in 2000 at the age of 93) told Life Magazine “Calvin was my father’s favorite. [His death] hurt him terribly.  It hurt us all.”

Despite his popularity with the American people, Coolidge issued a simple 10-word statement on August 2, 1927 (the fourth anniversary of President Harding’s death): “I do not choose to run for President in 1928."  The nation was surprised at his announcement, but Coolidge never officially explained his decision.  Yet, one simple sentence that Coolidge – "the man of few words” or “Silent Cal” – wrote in his Autobiography seems to sum everything up.  Writing about Calvin Jr., the former President wrote, “When he went, the power and the glory of the Presidency went with him.”

Less than four years after leaving office, 60-year-old former President Calvin Coolidge was found dead at his home in Massachusetts after his broken heart finally gave out on him.


She’s an angel!!!

Singer Stevie Nicks, along with 27 Medal of Honor recipients, was honored in Washington DC last evening at the USO-Metro’s 33rd Annual Awards Dinner.  Nicks was acknowledged for having spent the most hours visiting combat-wounded servicemen and women. The award was presented to Nicks by Cpl Vincent Mannion-Brouder who was in a coma for over a year.  Nicks has stayed in touch with Mannion-Brouder and his family over the years as he continued his stunning recovery.

As part of USO Metro’s Celebrity Handshake Tour, Nicks also donated hundreds of iPods she personally programmed with music to the returning vets who she spent time with during their recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Medical Center over several years.