Young veterans returning from the war in Iraq face a host of difficult challenges, from re-acclimating to civilian life to dealing with unpaid bills and the hard memories of war. In an upcoming MTV News special, "Choose or Lose & Kanye West Present: Homecoming," the Chicago MC and MTV's Sway Calloway give returning veterans the surprise of their lives during home visits where they listen to the soldiers' stories and express gratitude for their service.
The one-hour special, which airs July 28 at 10 p.m. ET, will feature West and Calloway dropping in unexpectedly at the homes of some Iraq war veterans and seeing firsthand the often difficult and painful challenges the young vets face after returning home.
"There are hundreds of veterans out there who are falling through the cracks. They make the ultimate sacrifices for us by laying down their lives, but it seems like a lot of them just get forgotten about," West said. "I know my music inspires and helps a lot of people, but you can always do more. I teamed up with MTV and took the opportunity to share the spotlight with these veterans and hear their stories. I went to their homes to listen and get their firsthand experiences. I wanted to hear their stories."
West didn't just listen, though. On behalf of MTV and the Dr. Donda West Foundation — named in honor of the rapper's late mother — Sway and West gave each veteran a life-changing gift, from paying off their debts to taking care of their rent or tuition.
"The stories of the veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are important and worth telling," Dave Sirulnick, executive vice president for MTV News and Production, said in a statement. "In conversations with veterans over the last year, it became clear that Kanye's music is used by soldiers in Iraq as a way of connecting to home. Once these veterans return home, their stories are so moving that you can't help but want to do the right thing and help them out."
"Homecoming" will focus on three Iraq war veterans, whose stories represent the diverse cross-section of America's returning armed forces and some of the issues that will face the more than 1.5 million young people who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Viewers will also be given information on how they can help by tapping into the extensive resources available through ChooseOrLose.com and the Dr. Donda West Foundation.
Profiles for all three vets (Tirann Laws, Shameeka Gray and Lorenzo Zarate) are available on the Choose or Lose site, where viewers can also interact with the veterans and find ways to take action on these issues and share their own thoughts on the subject.
The special will also be available on MTV Mobile through its wireless partners, and online viewers can get a sneak peek of the special on Friday, when the first act will be featured on the AOL home page and within AOL Music's the Boombox and PopEater sections, as well as AOL Video and AOL News. There will also be weekly MTV News stories on issues that affect young veterans.
To receive regular alerts via mobile phone from MTV's 51 Street Team '08 members — who are specially recruited citizen journalists from each state and Washington, D.C., covering the 2008 elections from a youth perspective — viewers will be able to text ST to 84465.