For the next week, veteran rights activist Nadia McCaffrey’s Tracy home will serve as a backdrop for reporter Dan Rather’s series of interviews with veterans, their families, farmers and McCaffrey herself.
The interviews will be for an upcoming “Dan Rather Reports” show called “A Mother’s Story,” focused on McCaffrey, whose son Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey died in Iraq three years ago, and her vision to create agrarian havens for veterans to peacefully recover from the stress of combat.
Rather will interview several Tracy locals besides McCaffrey, including John Treantos, the president of the Tracy War Memorial.
McCaffrey said she could think of no one better than Rather to investigate the plight of veterans in what she describes as an age of perpetual warfare, where there’s a constant influx of young, traumatized veterans.
One in six Iraq veterans suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine. The same study reported that less than 40 percent sought professional help under the assumption that it would compromise their military careers.
McCaffrey’s goal is to give veterans like these a place to live and stay active until they readjust to civilian life.
“One thing that many people don’t know is that Dan Rather was a Marine,” she said. “That’s why this topic is very dear to him, and very close to his heart.”
The interviews will center on an informal coalition of professionals and farmers, dubbed Swords to Plowshares, looking for ways to pool their resources to help veterans.
“This effort is politically neutral,” emphasized McCaffrey. “I don’t want people to mix up the political part of the issue with this.”
Farms Not Arms, one of the nonpartisan farm groups joining the cause, offers paid jobs and sometimes room and board to U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq.
“It gives them a chance to get back on their feet,” McCaffrey said. “The big news there is that the farmers are opening up their farms to help out the veterans. And not just here — there are farms in Mexico and across the country participating in this.”
Since the inception of Swords to Plowshares, people from all professions have found ways to contribute. Doctors offer medical assistance, homeowners provide shelter and various businesses give paid job training.
Rather will interview several sources in McCaffrey’s home, and the show will follow them to the coalition’s international meeting at the Santa Cruz Veteran’s Memorial Building this Sunday.