USA — Vietnam Combat Lessons Apply Today, Mullen Says

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2010 — The military’s top offi­cer yes­ter­day called on Viet­nam Vet­er­ans to stay con­nect­ed with today’s ser­vice­mem­bers, say­ing their lessons learned, espe­cial­ly with post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der, can help vet­er­ans of com­bat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the com­ments as he led a Memo­r­i­al Day obser­vance at the Viet­nam War Memo­r­i­al here just before six names of fall­en Viet­nam vet­er­ans were added to the icon­ic, black mar­ble wall.

“The Viet­nam con­flict was a life-defin­ing expe­ri­ence for every Amer­i­can who lived dur­ing that era, and it con­tin­ues to impact us all: the pain, the con­flict, the heal­ing,” Mullen said, not­ing that Viet­nam was his first war expe­ri­ence. “The lessons we learned in Viet­nam were bought at a very great price. Act­ing on them is the best trib­ute we can pay to hon­or those who died.”

Mullen not­ed that he and his wife, Deb­o­rah, came to The Wall after tour­ing Arling­ton Nation­al Cemetery’s Sec­tion 60 where many Viet­nam vet­er­ans are buried near those fall­en in Iraq and Afghanistan. “As we come to this very hal­lowed ground, in ways it is like com­ing home,” he said. “I, too, have friends on The Wall. I have class­mates on The Wall.”

When the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began after Sept. 11, 2001, Mullen said, he vowed to do every­thing pos­si­ble to pre­vent the dis­con­nect that hap­pened between the Amer­i­can pub­lic and the mil­i­tary dur­ing the Viet­nam war. To his relief, he said, Amer­i­cans “are so incred­i­bly sup­port­ive of our mil­i­tary men and women now.”

Mullen said he attrib­ut­es the changed atti­tudes to the lessons learned from the Viet­nam war era about sup­port­ing troops uncon­di­tion­al­ly. “Dur­ing that time, as a coun­try, we were unable to sep­a­rate the pol­i­tics from the peo­ple,” he said. “We must nev­er allow Amer­i­ca to become dis­con­nect­ed from her mil­i­tary. Nev­er.

the annual Memorial Day Observance Ceremony
Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff address­es audi­ence mem­bers at the annu­al Memo­r­i­al Day Obser­vance Cer­e­mo­ny at the Viet­nam Vet­er­ans Memo­r­i­al in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on May 31, 2010. Mullen gave the keynote address and rec­og­nized the addi­tion of six new names to the over 58,000 ser­vice mem­bers who per­ished in that war.
DoD pho­to by U.S. Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Chad J. McNee­ley
Click to enlarge

“That’s why this site, this wall, is so spe­cial,” he con­tin­ued. “Rather than sep­a­rat­ing us, this wall binds us togeth­er as nation. It has become, in the words of Gen­er­al [Bar­ry] McCaf­frey, a nation­al place of heal­ing.”

The memo­r­i­al on the Nation­al Mall memo­ri­al­izes more than three mil­lion Amer­i­cans who served dur­ing the Viet­nam war and more than 58,000 who died from com­bat-relat­ed injuries and ill­ness­es.

The six names added yes­ter­day are: Marine Lance Cpl. John E. Granville of Los Ange­les, Marine Lance Cpl. Clay­ton K. Hough Jr. of Mass­a­chu­setts, Army Capt. Edward F. Miles of New York, Army Sgt. Michael J. More­house of Ken­tucky, Army Lt. Col. William Tay­lor of Flori­da, and Marine Cpl. Ronald M. Vivona of New York.

“As your loved ones now join their broth­ers and sis­ters, we hope this day helps to bring you clo­sure and peace,” Mullen told the fam­i­lies of the six vet­er­ans’ fam­i­lies.

Mullen asked sur­viv­ing Viet­nam vet­er­ans to reach out to today’s vet­er­ans, espe­cial­ly in reduc­ing the stig­ma of men­tal health treat­ment. Whether cop­ing with anx­i­ety, depres­sion or sui­ci­dal thoughts, he said, “hav­ing an expe­ri­enced bat­tle bud­dy you can turn to makes all the dif­fer­ence.”

Mullen said his friend, for­mer Marine Corp com­man­dant Michael W. Hagee has said “Every Marine, every sol­dier he ever saw who was in com­bat suf­fered from post-trau­mat­ic stress. And I read­i­ly believe the same is true for today’s ground forces.”

He encour­aged the vet­er­ans to share their expe­ri­ences.

“We know we stand on the shoul­ders of the Viet­nam gen­er­a­tion as our young Amer­i­cans in uni­form give all they have to pro­vide our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren a safer world,” Mullen said. “Let us hon­or their lega­cy by learn­ing from them, lis­ten­ing to one anoth­er, and stay­ing con­nect­ed in the future.”

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