Mullen Urges Communities to Assist Returning Troops

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2011 — As the men and women who serve in today’s mil­i­tary leave active duty, com­mu­ni­ties around the coun­try should tap their poten­tial as employ­ees for the ben­e­fit of the nation, the top U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cer said yes­ter­day.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed hun­dreds of par­tic­i­pants at a meet­ing here of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties, which pro­vides essen­tial ser­vices to the Unit­ed States’ 3,068 coun­ties.

Mullen char­ac­ter­ized those fight­ing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as “a gen­er­a­tion wired to serve.”

“What I’m ask­ing com­mu­ni­ties to do through­out the coun­try is to rec­og­nize … that they are com­ing home, rec­og­nize that they will be able to deliv­er a huge upside poten­tial, and in wel­com­ing them back, cre­ate a bridge as they tran­si­tion from this mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence to the expe­ri­ence back home,” the admi­ral said.

Mullen also praised the asso­ci­a­tion for its ini­tia­tives in sup­port of ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies. Its pres­i­dent, Glen Whit­ley, cre­at­ed a Vet­er­ans and Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Task Force to encour­age asso­ci­a­tion mem­bers to pro­mote inno­v­a­tive pro­grams, ser­vices and ben­e­fits.

“Coun­ties should do what they can to meet the diverse needs of our vet­er­ans,” Whit­ley said in a recent announce­ment, “and work hard to help ser­vice mem­bers and fam­i­lies suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion after deploy­ment.”

In April, the theme of Nation­al Coun­ty Gov­ern­ment Month will be “Serv­ing Our Vet­er­ans, Armed Forces and their Fam­i­lies.”

Mullen described the decades-old tran­si­tion process of ser­vice mem­bers from the Defense Depart­ment to the Vet­er­ans Affairs Depart­ment and back to their com­mu­ni­ties. Pri­or­i­ties for these return­ing ser­vice mem­bers are edu­ca­tion, health care and employ­ment, he said.

“I think once you tap it, once you get into cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for these young men and women, they will con­tin­ue to serve for decades to come,” Mullen said.

“That’s not to say that these young men and women won’t bring chal­lenges,” the chair­man acknowl­edged, not­ing that tens of thou­sands who have been in com­bat bring back phys­i­cal wounds and the chal­lenge of post-trau­mat­ic stress.

“We’re going to have to work our way through meet­ing some of those men­tal health chal­lenges,” he said, “and we can only do this togeth­er.”

Such efforts take “inspired local lead­er­ship,” Mullen said, and must be “cus­tomized to each com­mu­ni­ty through­out the coun­try, whether it’s a city, a town, whether it’s rur­al or urban.”

“It takes lead­ers who under­stand their own com­mu­ni­ties to cre­ate the kind of struc­ture that would iden­ti­fy and work to cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties to tap this poten­tial,” he added.

DOD, VA and you,” Mullen told the audi­ence, can make a dif­fer­ence for young men and women and their fam­i­lies who have made such a dif­fer­ence for the nation.

“I’m look­ing for local lead­er­ship in your coun­ties will­ing to take this on,” he said, “tied to the ini­tia­tive you’ve put in place.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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