UW Alumna Works On Star Wars, Horse Farm Helps Vets, Russia Investigation Update

Air Date:
Heard On Central Time

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hits theaters tomorrow! We talk to a UW graduate who played a big role in the digital components of Star Wars and hear how she’s encouraging women to get into the computer science field. We also chat with the founder of a Wisconsin horse farm that’s helping military veterans and others overcome trauma in their past. Plus, we look into President Trump’s lawyers calling for a special counsel to investigate Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian campaign interference.

Featured in this Show

  • Wisconsin's Connection To The New Star Wars Movies

    Lots of people are anticipating the release of “Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi.” The new Star Wars trilogy has a Wisconsin connection…a UW alum works at Industrial Light and Magic, the motion picture visual effects company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas. She helps bring the movies to life. We learn about her career and how her time in Wisconsin has influenced her work.

  • Veterans Seek Purpose, Peace Of Mind Through Equine Therapy

    When Barb Knopf’s son returned from tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010, he was what she called a “changed young man.”

    Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the now-32-year-old U.S. Marine found solace in helping his mom care for their family’s horses.

    Barb Knopf with one of her horses. Image courtesy Barb Knopf

    Knopf runs one of two Morgan horse rescue programs in the country. Her’s is in La Valle, Wisconsin, the other facility is in Pennsylvania. She started Veterans Equine Trail Services to coincide with her rescue operation after her son expressed how helpful handling the horses had been for him.

    “He said, ‘Mom, you really need to offer this to other veterans, this has helped me so much, it’s calmed my nightmares, it’s calmed my anxiety, it’s given me determination and a sense of purpose by helping these abused horses that we have at the farm,’” Knopf told WPR’s “Central Time.”

    And so she did.

    Knopf filed VETS as a nonprofit and has been assisting veterans and their families through equine — or horse — therapy ever since.

    VETS specializes in helping veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries by “helping them regain self-awareness, confidence, task completion and reward,” according to their website.

    The services are free to veterans and their families.

    With each veteran, Knopf and her volunteers assess their needs and match them to an animal they think is a good fit.

    “Every personality and their needs are all different, so we assess both the veteran and our equine friend, and we find a partnership that will work on building trust,” Knopf said. “We bring the two together and they work as a team conquering small obstacles building up to either riding or driving a carriage.”

    Knopf, a veteran of the Marine Corps herself, knows first-hand how isolating trauma can be.

    The men in her unit were stationed in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War in 1983 when their barracks were attacked by a truck bomb. At the time, women weren’t allowed in combat zones, so Knopf remained at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina with her fellow servicewomen. All of the men in her unit were killed.

    “These were my brothers and sisters in arms … When you’re in the service your fellow servicemen — be it Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, it doesn’t matter — they become your extended family,” said Knopf. “Knowing people that you had read letters with and shared homemade cookies with weren’t coming back was very traumatic — it’s like losing a loved one, losing a brother or a sister.”

    Having her horses provided a respite.

    Now she hopes VETS can provide an outlet for other veterans, free of the stigma often associated with PTSD and other mental illness.

    “There’s so many stigmas that go on when you say post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s marked down as a mental disability and that in itself is a disabling label,” said Knopf. “Equine therapy, or horse therapy, really helps renegotiate parts in our hearts and our minds and lets us start trusting and sharing what can be very dark memories, letting them out and dealing with them.”

    Knopf said VETS receives support from their local American Legion, VFW halls and the Sauk County Marine Corps League — which she is the commandant of.

    “We are 100 percent supported by private donors, small grassroots grants and these wonderful civilian and military organizations,” she said.

    Adding that “being able to give back to others in the community and let them know they are not alone in this fight,” makes it all worth it.

  • Farm Helping Veterans And Others Overcome Trauma Through Horse Therapy

    For those returning from military service, post-traumatic stress disorder can be a major barrier in readjusting to civilian life. Veterans Equine Trail Services in La Valle, Wisconsin is a volunteer-run farm helping veterans and other victims of trauma heal by working with rescued horses. We talk to Barb Knopf, founder of V.E.T.S., about opportunities at the farm and the powerful bond between horses and humans.

    If you’re curious about V.E.T.S., you can reach Barb at (608) 415-8967.

  • Mueller Investigation Losing GOP Support

    The integrity of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has been called into question by President Trump and members of the Republican party. Critics of the probe say that Mueller’s investigation could be politically biased against Trump, while many analysts believe the attacks are an effort to discredit any findings in the Russia probe that could implicate the President. We take a closer look with a political scientist.

    Are you concerned about political bias in the Russia investigation? Do you think the GOP is trying to invalidate any of Mueller’s findings that could implicate President Trump or the people closest to him?

    Let us know by emailing ideas@wpr.org

    You can also contact us here:

    Tweet: @centraltimewpr

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theideasnetwork/

    Call during showtime: 1-800-642-1234

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • Dean Knetter Producer
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Rachel Rose Guest
  • Barb Knopf Guest
  • Lowell Barrington Guest

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