USA — Mullen to Continue ‘Conversations With Country’

WASHINGTON — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will hit the road again soon for more “con­ver­sa­tions with the coun­try,” an ini­tia­tive to help local com­mu­ni­ties under­stand the val­ue of their mil­i­tary vet­er­ans.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen kicked off this endeav­or with an April 18 vis­it to Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty in New York, fol­lowed by stops in Pitts­burgh and Mor­gan­town, W.Va. He plans to con­tin­ue his “con­ver­sa­tions” with aca­d­e­mics, com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and vet­er­ans in upcom­ing trav­els, offi­cials said.

Mullen said he’s try­ing to con­nect what he calls three “stovepipes” — the depart­ments of Defense and Vet­er­ans Affairs and com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try — to bet­ter sup­port vet­er­ans.

“We all need to look at how we work togeth­er in terms of assist­ing them, sup­port­ing them in the needs that they have: their edu­ca­tion, their train­ing, deal­ing with post-trau­mat­ic stress, deal­ing with the med­ical chal­lenges, the injuries that have occurred,” he said in a pod­cast to be broad­cast next week.

The key is to engage com­mu­ni­ties, Mullen said, with an empha­sis on uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, since they’re com­mu­ni­ty-based and so strong­ly linked to com­mu­ni­ty lead­er­ship.

The chair­man said he’d like to tap into the “sea of good­will” that’s grown over the past sev­er­al years.

“There’s an incred­i­ble amount of peo­ple who want to help,” he said. “The ques­tion is how to do that. As our vet­er­ans return, I’m anx­ious to try to see if I can help make that con­nec­tion to meet their needs.”

It’s his intent to reach a large num­ber of com­mu­ni­ties, he said, as he aims to con­nect com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers with peo­ple who “have a great deal to con­tribute to the com­mu­ni­ty and to our nation for many decades to come.”

“They’re great young peo­ple; they’ve have made a dif­fer­ence,” he said of vet­er­ans. “They’ve had life expe­ri­ences that I think are incred­i­bly valu­able.”

Mullen also called for sup­port of fam­i­lies of the fall­en and acknowl­edged their immense sac­ri­fice.

“The biggest chal­lenge is match­ing up what I would call a very clear need that these fam­i­lies have and the vet­er­ans have to a very clear abil­i­ty to meet that need,” he said.

“I want to make sure we’re doing all we can to sup­port them, because they’ve giv­en so much to Amer­i­ca,” he added.

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