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As a child, Francisco Ortega lived in rural Tijuana, Mexico, 100 miles south of where he lives with his family now.

"We were so poor, but I used to say my mother kept the best dirt floors ever," he told his 16-year-old daughter, Kaya during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were the cleanest dirt floors in the planet.

Dr. Joseph Linsk grew up on Atlantic Avenue in the uptown section of Atlantic City, N.J., in the early 1930s. It's an area where he's spent most of his life and where he practiced medicine starting in the 1940s, specializing in cancer and blood diseases.

Now 94 years old, the former hematologist and oncologist is failing in health, as he battles Parkinson's disease. This grave illness, however, is only one part of a perennial struggle Linsk faces. For more than 80 years, he has kept a secret. And it's one about which we're kindly requesting your help.

Robert Sanchez first met Fred Davie in 1998, in a small, windowless room at Sing Sing Prison. Sanchez was there serving 15 years on a drug conviction; Davie was a Presbyterian minister, who was teaching there in a theology master's program.

It "didn't look like much of an educational setting," Sanchez laughs. He was studying toward his master's in theology, sitting there with 16 men, most of whom were serving sentences of 15 to 20 years. "But that room created magic."

Mary Ostendorf met her partner, Leslye Huff, in 1983. At that time, like so many LGBTQ people then, Mary didn't tell her family. And Huff went along with it.

"You took me to meet your mom," Huff tells Ostendorf, recalling their relationship's beginnings in a conversation with StoryCorps. "She was short like me, and pretty vivacious. She and I sat and talked and I thought the makings of a pretty good friendship was beginning."

Saboor Sahely grew up in Laghman, Afghanistan, with a large extended family.

"I vividly remember there was a lot of happiness and joy in eastern Afghanistan," Sahely, 65, tells his youngest daughter, Jessica. On a recent visit with StoryCorps, he tells her about the lessons of community he learned there.

"If there was a wedding, the entire village would show up. And you felt very welcomed to go into each other's homes, and we knew who had what for dinner every night and if we didn't like what we had for dinner, we all went to the neighbor's house."

Looking for a diversion from divisive political conversation this Thanksgiving? StoryCorps suggests using its smartphone app as part of its Great Thanksgiving Listen project.

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Her mother was an immigrant from Mexico. Her father was a foreman at a food-packing plant. She and her four siblings were raised together in a small trailer in the late 1960s.

So, when Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda's family was finally able to afford a house of their own, it was a special moment.

"I remember watching my dad paint the walls, and just thinking, 'This house is so huge!' " Beltrán-Castañeda tells her own daughter Serena Castañeda, on a visit with StoryCorps in Salinas, Calif. "I loved my room. And I had a nice full-sized bed and my pink cover and my dust ruffles."

Every day, visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., leave objects in commemoration of the thousands of names inscribed on its wall. Medals, dog tags, even pajamas and countless other items — there have been hundreds of thousands of them left at the memorial since its dedication in 1982, and still today you'll often find them laid out at the base of the memorial's long, reflective surface.

Duery Felton did, too.

In 1967, after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Hartmut Lau deployed to Vietnam. During his deployment, he earned a bronze star, a silver star and a purple heart.

He describes his time in Vietnam matter-of-factly: "You perform the mission that you're given. You do your job and then you either perform well or you don't."

Jenn Stanley tries not to bring up politics when she returns home to visit her father. She really, really tries.

"But you always watch the 5 o'clock news, and the minute any politician steps on — it doesn't matter who it is — I just cringe."

Carmen Pacheco-Jones, mother of five, was addicted to heroin. As she would get high, her children would often skip class — sometimes "half the school year," her daughter Jasmine Pacheco says, "because there was nobody to make us go to school."

The situation didn't last, though.

"I remember when the task force raided the house," Carmen tells her daughter. "You guys had gone off to school, and I was in the bathroom getting high. I heard this bang-bang at the door and the police were through, and it just happened so quickly."

When Tariq Sheikh first saw Tabinda, he remembers she was wearing yellow gloves. A recent arrival from the Dominican Republic, Tabinda had just taken a job as a housekeeper at a New York City hotel — the very same hotel where Tariq worked at the hotel's front desk.

And when Tariq saw her, he was utterly tongue-tied. He couldn't even say hello.

"Oh, I thought you was rude and mean," she tells him, on a visit with StoryCorps in 2014. "I said, 'Oh my God, this guy don't even say hi.' You're just staring at me!"

Joe Serna served three tours in Afghanistan as a Green Beret. Judge Lou Olivera is a veteran, too, who served in the Army as an intelligence officer. But when they met, it wasn't on base. It was in a North Carolina courtroom.

Serna had been struggling to adapt to life back home, and, after violating probation on DWI charge, he was sentenced by Olivera to a night in jail. He would have spent that time in his cell alone with his thoughts, if Olivera hadn't joined him.

On a late summer day in 2010, John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver, was walking across the street carrying his carving knife and a small piece of wood when he was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer.

"He was carving an eagle at the moment," his brother Rick recalls, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. Rick tells his friend Jay Hollingsworth that his brother loved to carve — had been carving even at age 4, when he completed his first totem pole. He says John could walk and carve at the same time, and that was just what he was doing, carrying his knife openly.

Ten years ago, a gunman barricaded himself inside a one-room Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, Pa. Then he opened fire.

Charles "Charlie" Roberts killed five children and injured five others before killing himself.

The Amish community responded in a way that many found surprising: They forgave the shooter. And, in the years since, they have grown close to his family.

"I will never face my Amish neighbors again"

Nearly 9 million miles and counting.

That's how many miles Idella Hansen and Sandi Talbott have between them. The best friends and big-rig truckers have been at it for an awfully long time. But back when they started, they were a rarity on the road.

"There weren't that many women out here driving trucks," Talbott recalls with Hansen, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "And my husband's health was not good; he only had one leg, so consequently I did all the driving."

In school, they called her stupid. Dumb. Lazy.

Eileen Kushner had always had trouble with reading and simple math, and while she was growing up in Detroit during the 1950s, her fellow students didn't make life easy on her. Later, she'd be diagnosed with a learning disability, but at the time, she just had to suffer the slings and arrows of her peers. When she got married right out of high school and had three kids, she hoped that her life as a stay-at-home mom might hide her learning problems.

Things didn't work out that way.

On Sept. 11, 2001, two men arrived at the ticket counter late for American Airlines Flight 77 out of Dulles International Airport. This was before the days of the Transportation Security Administration, when airport security was quite different from what it is today. At the time, the man working at the counter, Vaughn Allex, followed procedure and checked them through.

Those two men were among the five hijackers who crashed that flight into the Pentagon — killing 189 people, including themselves.

The StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This week we hear from Jenna Henderson whose husband died while serving in Afghanistan.

Sgt. First Class Chris Henderson joined the Army right out of high school in 1991. He served in Bosnia and Kosovo before deploying to Afghanistan in 2007 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. On that tour, he was killed by an IED, when he was just 35 years old.

Last year, Ceceley Chambers visited a Massachusetts home for people with memory loss. As a chaplain who has worked with seniors and hospice patients, Chambers knew the residents liked having kids around.

She just wasn't sure her 9-year-old son, William, would feel the same about being there.

"My original thought was, 'Oh no,' " William tells her, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "I was a little afraid."

But as it turns out, he really liked it there. "They were very thoughtful," he says. "They were very accepting."

The Rev. Danny Cortez is a pastor. He also has a son who recently came out as gay. And when his teenage son came out to him in 2014, he did something more than express his support: He decided to talk to his Southern Baptist congregation about it — even though doing so likely meant getting kicked out of the church.

Frank Mutz's family has been keeping people cool for more than half a century.

It began with his grandfather, who started installing and repairing air conditioners in the 1950s. Now, Frank is the elder in the family trade, running the Atlanta business alongside his own children, including his son Phil.

When Melva Washington Toomer joined her father on a visit with StoryCorps recently, their conversation was quite unlike anything that has been featured in the series' 10-year history. That's because she spoke with her dad, John Carter Washington, relying not on her voice but on a TeleBraille machine.

Washington is blind and deaf. So was his late wife, in fact — and together, they raised three children, including Melva, the oldest.

Back in the early '60s, computer dating was a pretty new idea. Only a handful of services existed and they used massive computers — the size of an entire room — to calculate compatibility.

But John Matlock and his future wife, Carol, both decided to take a chance on the new technology.

They filled out questionnaires about themselves and put them in the mail.

Their answers were fed into the computer on a punch card.

Then, they waited for a match.

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