USA — Mullen Urges Support, Care for Nation’s Veterans

WASHINGTON — Today’s gen­er­a­tion of mil­i­tary mem­bers, vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies is mak­ing an impact on Amer­i­can soci­ety that could be felt for gen­er­a­tions to come, the nation’s top mil­i­tary offi­cer said here today.

Speak­ing to a group of polit­i­cal staffers, defense indus­try offi­cials and reporters at The Hill newspaper’s annu­al Trib­ute to the Troops break­fast this morn­ing, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed the need to take care of vet­er­ans.

Their desire to serve the nation and make a dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­ni­ties is unmatched by any oth­er gen­er­a­tion in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, he said, and the nation would be wise to meet the needs of vet­er­ans in their com­mu­ni­ties and take advan­tage of the qual­i­ties vet­er­ans offer.

“I’ve been so struck in these wars by the extra­or­di­nary ser­vice of the men and women who wear the uni­form [and] their fam­i­lies to a degree and a lev­el that I’ve just nev­er seen before,” Mullen said. He cit­ed the “extra­or­di­nary propen­si­ty to serve” today’s gen­er­a­tion of troops and vet­er­ans exude.

“It’s my belief [vet­er­ans] will con­tin­ue to con­tribute to our soci­ety in ways we can’t imag­ine, and a lot of it is cer­tain­ly based on what they’ve learned since they’ve been in the mil­i­tary,” he added.

The admi­ral dis­cussed ini­tia­tives the Defense and Vet­er­ans Affairs depart­ments are spear­head­ing in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. Mullen is spear­head­ing a year-long effort to help com­mu­ni­ties real­ize the poten­tial of vet­er­ans and how to inte­grate them into their soci­eties. The future of the coun­try depends on reach­ing out to vet­er­ans and involv­ing them in their com­mu­ni­ties, he said.

“It should nev­er be about vet­er­ans return­ing and see­ing them as a bur­den,” Mullen said. “It should be about vet­er­ans return­ing and see­ing them with great poten­tial to serve in the future and make a huge dif­fer­ence.”

Such nation­al ini­tia­tives also are ongo­ing with the Post 9/11 GI Bill and efforts to end home­less­ness among vet­er­ans. Along with their poten­tial, Mullen said, the needs of vet­er­ans are too great to ignore.

“What hasn’t changed over the course of these wars is [vet­er­ans’] dreams,” he said. “They still want to raise a fam­i­ly, they want an edu­ca­tion, they want two incomes, [and] they’d like to own a piece of the rock.”

But while peo­ple at all lev­els of soci­ety want to help vet­er­ans, there’s an inabil­i­ty to con­nect those needs with those who want to help, Mullen said. Build­ing such rela­tion­ships is more dif­fi­cult than many may real­ize, he added.

Orga­ni­za­tions through­out the coun­try express their desire to help, but rather than focus on what they do best — whether it’s assist­ing home­less vet­er­ans, help­ing vet­er­ans mar­ket their skills to the civil­ian work force or help­ing them under­stand ben­e­fits they’ve earned to buy a home, some vet­er­an out­reach groups are bur­dened with rais­ing resources, he said. Mullen explained that he’d much rather help to con­nect such orga­ni­za­tions with oth­er groups for resources, he said. But it’s a work in progress, he added.

The chair­man said he is encour­aged by the sup­port the Amer­i­can peo­ple have shown today’s ser­vice­mem­bers.

“As I trav­el through­out the coun­try, I’m real­ly uplift­ed by the Amer­i­can peo­ple who are so sup­port­ive of our men and women and who are look­ing for oth­er ways to improve, increase and make an impact on their lives in terms of sup­port because of their sac­ri­fice,” Mullen said. “These [troops and vet­er­ans] are the trea­sured indi­vid­u­als return­ing to your com­mu­ni­ties and can make such a dif­fer­ence.”

America’s future is in great hands with today’s vet­er­ans lead­ing tomorrow’s com­mu­ni­ties, the chair­man said.

“I think our future will be absolute­ly superb in many, many, many ways, sim­ply because we have the best peo­ple we’ve ever had,” Mullen told the group. “We need to make sure we not just rec­og­nize that they are the trea­sure, [but] that we pro­tect, invest in, depend on them for the future. If we get that right, [the future] will be just fine, no mat­ter what hap­pens in the world. If we don’t, it will dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase the chal­lenges.”

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