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)