Mullen Asks Philadelphians to Embrace Wounded Veterans
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
PHILADELPHIA, April 29, 2008 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called on the citizens of Philadelphia last night to embrace those who have lost loved ones or who have been wounded in service to America.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen received the Gold Medal of the Union League of Philadelphia during a ceremony at the 1862 building, right down the street from City Hall. The league was established during the Civil War as an organization to help restore the Union, and it has pursued its mission to uphold the nation for the 135 years since.
Mullen challenged the league to find ways to help the surviving spouses and families of servicemembers who paid the ultimate price, saying that communities have a moral responsibility to help returning wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of these veterans face stark choices as they try to plan lives that changed in an instant. “A poll in this morning’s news said some 70 percent of those veterans who have come back from this war don’t think America is doing everything it can for those who are serving,” Mullen said.
The admiral didn’t comment on the poll, but said he is “extremely concerned that we figure out a way to take care of those who sacrificed so much.”
Deborah Mullen, the admiral’s wife, often meets and spends time with surviving spouses, the chairman said. They tell her that they want to stay connected to their service, and the admiral noted that significant support groups are helping them do so.
The Mullens have visited young men and women in wounded warrior clinics in Hawaii; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md.; and Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. “As they recover from these life-altering wounds, my vision is that the Department of Defense, the [Department of Veterans Affairs] and the rest of America figure out a way to take care of these young people and their families for the rest of their lives,” Mullen said. “In many cases, they are trying to figure out what they want to be for the rest of their lives, and their choices have changed.”
Mullen said he wants to stop the focus on the disability side of the assessment and focus more on the abilities these wounded warriors still possess.
“I really believe that, in this great country, … DoD, VA, but most importantly, the communities throughout the country can connect the sea of goodwill that is in this country, that I know is out there, with these young families,” he said. “I would hope that we as a country reach out to them so their American dream is still out there.”
Though their dreams may change because of their circumstances, wounded warriors want to go to school, they want a family, they want to go to school, they want to have a family, they want their kids to go to school, and they’d like to own a home and have the income stream to support it, Mullen said.
“These are cases where young people sacrificed their all, and in other cases sacrificed their future -- certainly the way they saw it,” the chairman said. “For them, we as a country must figure out how to best take care of them.”
Mullen thanked the Union League members for their high honor. “If I could ask you to remember one thing about the evening, it would not be about who got the award,” he said. “It would be about those who serve and, in particular, those have given so much in this war and those who will continue to do so.”
In closing the ceremony, Union League President Frederick C. Haab said that one of the perks of his job “is to sit next to a gentleman like Admiral Mullen and talk with him and chat with him on a wide rage of topics. I wish you could all have that experience. It was wonderful, and I say in closing that there is a man who epitomizes our motto: ‘Love of Country Leads.’”