KALA Shares Student Veteran Stories


For more than five years, St. Ambrose University's public radio station KALA 88.5FM has honored Veterans Day by sharing stories from those who served. Typically, it is done through a radio special, but this year the station expanded its reach to a wider audience.

On Nov. 8 and Nov. 18, KALA released video pieces exploring veterans' transitions from military to civilian life on its Facebook page. The station decided to try its hand at social media distribution because of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

"(They) offered a grant this year for selected stations," said KALA Operations Manager David Baker. "The stations that were selected in this grant process received $25,000. Those picked were among some of the largest public media outlets in the United States, and we were honored to be in that group."

The grant required stations to produce content for "Veterans Coming Home," a collaborative multi-platform public media project between Wisconsin Public Television and Kindling Group in partnership with local stations, like KALA, in an effort to shed light on veteran issues across the country.

"It was a public media thrust," Baker explained. "Stations were asked to produce stories that tell about the process of leaving military life and transitioning into civilian life, and then telling what happened next."

KALA partnered with SAUtv and the Veterans Services and Recruitment office to produce two videos and a radio broadcast, which aired Nov. 12 and Nov. 16. The pieces featured SAU alum Ken Cunningham '16, and current students Cheyenne Ziegler and her husband, Travis, both set to graduate in 2020.

Cunningham's story explores how art helped him heal. The video features the difficulties he faced, some of his artwork and his current mission to help other veterans heal through self-expression.

The Ziegler's story explores a young family's transition into adulthood. Both Cheyenne and Travis went straight into the military after high school, and began navigating post-military life on the SAU campus immediately following the end of their service.

By around Thanksgiving, combined, the videos had several thousand views.

"We're so glad we were able to share some of these veterans' stories with an audience," Baker said. "And we're still sharing them because these stories are still out there."

Baker hopes to continue the KALA tradition of sharing veterans' stories in the coming years.

"It's given us at KALA a better understanding of some of our students here at St. Ambrose, and I think sometimes we take for granted that (veterans) experiences are like everyone else's and that's just not the case."

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