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Finding And Photographing Alaska's Remote Veterans

Local veterans representative Sean Komonaseak drives a snowmobile with the VA's Tommy Sowers (back seat) and Sean Foertsch across the ice to the village of Wales, Alaska. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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David Gilkey/NPR

Local veterans representative Sean Komonaseak drives a snowmobile with the VA's Tommy Sowers (back seat) and Sean Foertsch across the ice to the village of Wales, Alaska.

David Gilkey/NPR

Howard Lincoln, 82, lives in the village of White Mountain in Alaska — and still has a little shrapnel in his jaw from a mortar shell that nearly killed him in the Korean War 60 years ago. He received a Purple Heart, recently suffered two minor strokes and now "visits" a doctor over a video link, part of a growing trend in the VA. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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David Gilkey/NPR

Howard Lincoln, 82, lives in the village of White Mountain in Alaska — and still has a little shrapnel in his jaw from a mortar shell that nearly killed him in the Korean War 60 years ago. He received a Purple Heart, recently suffered two minor strokes and now "visits" a doctor over a video link, part of a growing trend in the VA.

David Gilkey/NPR

The backlog of veterans waiting to receive benefits is a bureaucratic nightmare — but that's not news. In Alaska, the issues run even deeper: There are veterans who don't even know they're entitled to benefits.

NPR reporter Quil Lawrence and photographer David Gilkey recently trekked up to the area around Nome, Alaska, along the Bering Strait — accompanying a Department of Veterans Affairs official in search of those veterans who, in some cases, don't even want to be found.

See more of Gilkey's portraits in this story about searching for Alaska's veterans.

Kelly Anungazuk, 61, served in the U.S. Army from 1970-73. A disproportionate number of veterans live in rural, sometimes remote parts of the country, like Wales, Alaska. As the veteran population ages, their health care needs increase, but many have not even filed claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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David Gilkey/NPR

Kelly Anungazuk, 61, served in the U.S. Army from 1970-73. A disproportionate number of veterans live in rural, sometimes remote parts of the country, like Wales, Alaska. As the veteran population ages, their health care needs increase, but many have not even filed claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

David Gilkey/NPR