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Military and journalism veterans reflect on years of service

Three uniformed military personnel salute
Michelle Gutierrez/Michelle Gutierrez
Columbia Missourian
From left to right, LTC Tara Bradley, SFC Bradley Williams and MSG Gambit Olvera salute on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, at Memorial Union in Columbia. This Veterans Day marks the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, those involved with the military gather to reminisce and share experiences.

The National Stars and Stripes Museum hosted an anniversary fundraiser for Stars and Stripes, a paper for and by American troops, Nov. 6 in Cape Girardeau. It was founded near the Missouri Bootheel community 160 years ago during the Civil War.

Alumni, veterans and current employees of the newspaper alike sat down to tell their stories.

Walter Trott

Walter Trott
"After close to a year, I thought, 'I really need to go back into active duty.'"

Walter Trott is a Marine Corps, Navy Reserve, Army and Stars and Stripes veteran. Experienced with many branches of military service, Trott honed his love for writing and reporting during his time in Vietnam. He worked for Stars and Stripes for seven years and visited countries all over the world before ultimately moving to Nashville to report and write books.

Doug Gillam

Doug Gillam has worked for Stars and Stripes for almost two decades as a visual information specialist. Even though he does not have a military background, he was drawn to the organization because of the support it provides America's troops. It took Gillam a year of dedication and several phone calls to finally land a job, but he's been at the organization ever since.

"That's when it really hit me. I was like, 'This is it right here. This is why I'm doing this— because I'm making a difference in someone's life.'"

Rick Braun

Rick Braun
"I found the stories and what our journalists were covering important and interesting."
Rick Braun

Rick Braun worked for Stars and Stripes for nearly three decades. After several lengthy interviews, he was hired as an internal auditor and moved to Germany where he lived for nearly half of his life.

Glen Cummins

Glenn Cummins worked at the European Stars and Stripes in Germany from 1971 to 1976. He wears a pin in tribute of his son, Scott Robert Cummins, who died at the age of 25 serving his country in 1997.

"Most corporations don't have a purpose that's dedicated to the benefit to a mass of people. And Stripes, it did that. You felt like whatever you were doing, you were providing support and that link to somebody back home."

Max Lederer

Max Lederer
"We're informing the military community about the things they need to know to have a successful experience."

Max Lederer has worked for Stars and Stripes since 1992. Though he started by serving in the military, he eventually worked his way up to being the publisher of the organization. Through his service to his country, he has worked in places like Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany and Hungary.

Calvin Posner

Calvin Posner was in the Army for 24 years, where he worked as a photojournalist for both the military and Stars and Stripes. His photo stints took him to Korea and Europe in the 1960s and '70s. During his lifetime, he has experienced the transition from processing photos with chemicals to the digital cameras we know today.

"I went to the Army three days after graduating high school and did the next 24 years in the Army. I traveled all over, met my wife and just had a really nice career."

Joe Gromelski

Joe Gromelski
"I think it's that connection to our audience that really needs what we do."
Joe Gromelski

Joe Gromelski worked at the European office of Stars and Stripes in 1997 to 1998 and continued at the American office until he retired last June. He stayed so long because he likes the steady nature of the paper and knowing that people are going to come in and do their jobs every day, no matter what.

Michael Bailey

Michael Bailey lives at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. He and his wife are both pilots, but Bailey spent 2014 to 2018 working as a Stars and Stripes commander. To him, his role in the organization is a caretaker for those around him.

"A lot of things that were being asked for — experience in Afghanistan, experience in Europe, experience in Africa — I checked all those boxes. I thought, ‘That may be a good fit for me.’”

MU Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies Kathy Kiely and reporter Regan Mertz attended the anniversary event at the National Stars and Stripes Museum. These photos and audio recordings were created for the museum’s historical archive.