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Mullen Responds to Military Spouses at Surprise Appearance

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2010 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made a surprise visit to Norfolk, Va., last evening, where he fielded questions from Navy spouses while emphasizing their important role in supporting the force.

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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives to a standing applause at the quarterly Continuum Of Resource Education spouses meeting at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., May 9, 2010. Mullen and his wife, Deborah, addressed attendees at the the Norfolk Fleet and Family Support Center, which hosts the quarterly meeting to aide spouses in leadership positions and the challenges they face filling these demanding positions. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“It is easy for us to say this is the finest military we have ever had, no question,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told almost 200 participants at a spouses’ conference at Norfolk Naval Station, Va. “And you are a part of that. You have been extraordinary – more than you know – in supporting [them] at a really critical time in our history. I can’t thank you enough.”

The admiral’s wife, Deborah Mullen, who regularly meets with military families, was the keynote speaker at the event. She unexpectedly called her husband to the stage about 45 minutes into a question-and-answer session.

“Well, why don’t I have my husband come up here and answer that?” she said as she responded to a question, drawing surprised chatter, then wild applause from the crowd.

The chairman joined her in responding to a range of questions about deployments, family support and programs for wounded warriors and combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and other mental-health issues.

Every military service is working to address the challenges of long, repeated deployments and the stress it puts on the force, he told the spouses. In addition to building resilience within the ranks, the military is putting more emphasis on helping returning combat troops reintegrate into their families and communities when they return.

Mullen noted the problem of suicides within the military, citing a direct correlation with repeated deployments and combat stress.

“I personally believe it has a lot to do with the [operations] tempo for everybody,” said the admiral, who called on military families to assist loved ones experiencing difficulties to get the help they need.

Both the chairman and his wife praised the role families play in helping wounded warriors recuperate.

“It makes a big difference in their recovery,” Mrs. Mullen told the group. The medical staffs tend to the servicemembers’ physical wounds, she noted. “But it is the family that [provides] the spiritual and emotional healing,” she added.

While emphasizing the capability and compassion provided at military hospitals and medical centers, the chairman urged families to “be ferocious” in ensuring their loved ones get the care and services they deserve. Bureaucracy sometimes needs “a jolt” from a spouse, mother or father, he said.

Mullen said he fully supports efforts within the services to allow every wounded warrior who’s qualified and wants to remain in uniform to continue military service. “Each service is leaning forward for those who have sacrificed so much,” he said.

The chairman also emphasized the value of his and his wife’s visits with servicemembers and their families around the world, as well as in military hospitals, to gauge issues percolating within the force that need top-level attention. Mullen said he passes what he learns on to the service chiefs.

“It’s a fresh set of eyes on a problem,” he said.

The Continuum of Resource Education organized the spouses’ conference at Naval Station Norfolk.


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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

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Naval Station Norfolk

Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, address attendees at the Continuum of Resource Education spouses’ meeting at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., May 10, 2010. The Norfolk Fleet and Family Support Center hosts the quarterly meeting designed to aid spouses in leadership positions and the challenges they face filling these demanding positions. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley  
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