GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With a military career that spanned more than two decades and a chest lined with medals for valor, including two Purple Hearts, five Bronze Stars, the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Denny Gillem is on a new mission.

“I call my listenership the military veteran, patriotic community,” he told News 8.

After graduating from West Point in 1964, he served several tours in Vietnam as an infantry leader and over time rose through the ranks of the Army. His last assignment brought the California native to Michigan as an adviser to the state’s Army National Guard. This is where he retired.

Twelve years ago, he launched Frontlines of Freedom on WOOD Radio.

“The Frontlines of Freedom team really appreciates you joining us this fine day in America,” he greets radio listeners from iHeartMedia’s downtown Grand Rapids studios.

vets voices denny gillem
Denny Gillem in the studio where he hosts Frontlines of Freedom in downtown Grand Rapids on Sept. 4, 2019.

Gillem said most military-themed talk shows are cut of the same cloth.

“You were a sergeant, he was a corporal, I was a something and we talk about our time in the Army. It’s the good ol’ boy kind of thing. We don’t do that at all,” Gillem said. “I talk about foreign policy. I talk about homeland defense. One of my interviews today is (author) Lela Gilbert on the Mideast. Things that will impact the security, safety of our nation.” 

It’s a view of the world from the military perspective; or more specifically, Gillem’s military perspective. He doesn’t shy away from controversial issues.

“The last nasty-gram we got … was when I had a gal on who I’ve had on about once a year for as long as I can remember, talking about transgenders in the military,” he said. “Basically, why do we do something that doesn’t make us combat-ready? This is not a social issue. This is a question of why should we spend defense dollars on something that doesn’t make us more combat-ready?”

Now syndicated, the show reaches 187 markets across the country.

Gillem compares the success of his show with the success he achieved early in his military career.

“As a brand new captain, being a rifle company commander with the 101st Airborne was the dream situation. And it was. A few years later, a few decades later, this is a dream position for me,” Gillem said.

Frontlines of Freedom airs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday nights on WOOD Radio as well as stations in Zeeland, Kalamazoo and Big Rapids.