Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Joint Chiefs Chair says homeless vets a priority

New York – Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been deployed in combat zones a year at a time, some of them as many as five or six times, since 2003.

During an appearance on the CBS "Late Night" show, David Letterman asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff how the Defense Department and the government intends to deal with their return to American shores.

It's a war with special problems of readjustment, the nation's top officer of the Armed Forces said.

With only a year off in between tours of duty, they have “seen horrific things” none of the civilian population has seen, said Admiral Mike Mullen.

At that point, the popular late night talk host and veteran television comedian interrupted the Admiral, saying that it is his understanding that many veterans have little opportunity when they return, that some of them are homeless.

Admiral Mullen began his answer by saying that veterans have excellent benefits under the terms of the GI bill to further their education, shift gears and enter the civilian workforce when Mr. Letterman again interrupted him to ask about widespread affliction with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among returning veterans.

“We've had that in all the wars,” the Admiral said calmly. He mentioned that the returning veterans have seen things the civilian population will never see.

As he began to shape his response, Mr. Letterman again mentioned homelessness among veterans recently returned from Iraq.

Hard pressed to finish his responses, Admiral Mullen politely asserted command presence, looked Mr. Letterman in the eye, and said, “We didn't do a very good job” after the Vietnam War. He acknowledged that many veterans were left to wander the streets, homeless, following their demobilization and return to civilian life following that conflict, an undeclared war that also lasted for 10 years.

The camera zoomed in on the rows upon rows of campaign ribbons on the Admiral's dress gabardine khaki uniform coat, one of which was awarded for service in the Vietnam war.

When the camera panned back to his face, he agreed that many of his comrades in arms suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

In recent appearances, Admiral Mullen has said that of all military relationships the U.S. has with foreign nations, none is more important than relations with the United Kingdom. He also said that U.S. military ties with Egypt are still very strong.

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