Houston radio show focuses on the military
Magnolia resident Bonnie Gilson was having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.
Her son, Matt, had just deployed to Afghanistan with the Army, and she dreaded the prospect of Christmas without him.
A few days after her son's departure, Gilson called in to the live broadcast of Our Military Heroes, an hour-long radio show co-hosted by Vietnam veteran Jim "Pappy" Mehrmann, 61, of Katy, and Pastor David Maulsby, 46, of Cypress.
Maulsby asked Gilson to describe for listeners her experience of the holidays as a military mom.
"Well, actually, that's one of my least favorite times right now," said Gilson, whose older son, Josh, also serves in the Army and is stationed at Fort Bliss. "We have not been together as a family for probably three years now. It's probably going to be another two years before we are together as a whole family. It's tough."
"All of us are there with you," Mehrmann told her. "Not one of us has not been there who is a veteran, or family of a veteran, and I am so thankful for a mother like you and a family like yours, that stands together, tall and proud."
Maulsby urged listeners to pray for the Gilson family.
Mehrmann and Maulsby's radio show, which started broadcasting this year from a high-rise office building in southwest Houston, aims to increase public awareness of the challenges facing the city's military community and to provide a forum for an exchange of information about services available to local veterans and their families.
"Ten percent of the reserves and National Guard serving overseas come from the Houston area," said Mehrmann, a retired Navy captain. "We have quite a stake in helping our people and their families, not leaving them alone, but being there for them."
The hour-long show airs at 5 p.m. every Sunday on 100.7 FM KKHT and 1070 AM KNTH, and could go to national syndication next year.
"As far as we know, this is the only show of its kind in the country," Maulsby said.
Faith plays a big part on Our Military Heroes, which is produced by Salem Communications, a Christian and conservative news-talk media company.
In addition to live callers, guests interviewed on the show include retired and active-duty members of the military and officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans come on the air to share war stories and advice.
"The idea is to create patriotism, to create knowledge and understanding and to be a source of help, and motivation too," Mehrmann said.
Maulsby is not a veteran, but he says he's motivated by "a strong patriotic desire to serve those who have served, just recognizing the need that's out there and the hurt these guys are facing."
Mehrmann said his co-host provides a civilian perspective and spiritual touchstone.
"Dave has not served, but his heart is the pastoral heart, and it's so important that the pastoral heart is open to our veterans and their families," he said.
Mehrmann, who served three tours in Vietnam, knows from experience that discussion of combat trauma can reduce stigma and promote healing. He said he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome for 20 years before he sought treatment.
"We didn't know what to call it," he said. "We just called it the thousand-yard stare."
Like many older veterans, Mehrmann felt the tug to return to the military when America went to war after 9/11, but he was too old for duty. The radio program gives Mehrmann an opportunity to let today's troops know he's still got their backs.
"There's the old saying that the retiree may be retired and he may hang up the uniform but not the meaning of the uniform," he said. "It has been true for me."
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