© 2023 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

CoastLine: Military veterans on life in the service and why it's strange to talk about it

left to right: Steven Shortt, USMC;
left to right: Steven Shortt, USMC; Bill Kawczynski, USMC; Joseph Kinzer, US Army; Bill Bruce, US Navy

"Everybody that goes to combat, it touches them in a certain way. It's hard to talk about some of those things."
Marine Corps veteran Steven Shortt says so many like him want to connect with civilians, especially given the growing divide between the military and civilian communities. But when one of your core values is serving a mission larger than yourself, it gets weird.

The number of military veterans choosing North Carolina as their post-service home is on the rise. Estimates of the state’s veteran population range from a low of around 638,000 to a high of 900,000. Whatever the real number happens to be, the needs of this community are growing.

On this edition of CoastLine, we meet four people who have served in one branch of the military. Our aim and goal is twofold: to acknowledge and honor the service of these veterans and to narrow the growing chasm between the military and civilian populations. We also explore why that even matters.

Segment 1: Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Joseph Kinzer:   

In 1959, he enlisted in the Army. He was just 19 years old. General Kinzer’s military career began in Fort Benning, Georgia, took him to Fort Myer, Virginia, and Europe. In 1964, he became a commissioned officer. He’s fulfilled five tours of duty starting with the Dominican Republic, two tours in Vietnam, then Panama, and ultimately as Commanding General of the United States and United Nations Forces in Haiti. But this retired three-star general says the highlight of his career was working with soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Segment 2:  Steven Shortt, Operations Readiness Officer, Marine Corps Installations East; Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4:

Steven Shortt enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1982 and found himself working as a wireman on telephones and switchboards. He went on to serve as a TOW Gunner, then became a warrant officer in 1998. He was tasked with creating the program that would train Marines at Twenty-Nine Palms to deal with chemical warfare. In 2007, he did a tour of duty in Iraq. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Chief Warrant Officer 4 and is now working for Marine Corps Installations East as an Operations Readiness Officer.

Segment 3:  Bill Bruce, Retired Aviation Electrician, U.S. Navy

Bill Bruce enlisted in the United States Navy in 1957, in part, he says, to get out from behind the mule on his family’s North Carolina farm just outside of Lumberton. He served as an Aviation Electrician, working on electrical systems on aircraft. He was on the flight crew of a four-engine transport aircraft carrying mail, troops, and cargo over the Mediterranean theater from Spain all the way to Pakistan. He eventually came back to Norfolk, Virginia, then Brunswick, Maine, where he tracked British, Italian, and Russian submarines.

Segment 4:  Bill Kawczynski, Director of Military Affairs, UNCW; Retired U.S. Marine Corps

He joined the Marine Corps just as the 1991 Gulf War was getting underway. He served as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he monitored military and geopolitical situations for more than 50 countries. He served as a liaison to foreign military organizations before leaving the military in 1996 to join the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Science and Math Education Center, which was part of a statewide collaborative. Since 2016, he’s served as Director of Military Affairs at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Resources for veterans:

Office of Military Affairs, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Honor Flight of the Cape Fear Area

Canines for Service

Cape Fear Veteran Resilience Project

Coastal Horizons Veterans Services

Veterans Business Collective

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.