Family Matters Blog: Mullens Leave Legacy of Family Support
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 30, 2011 I’ve heard Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, speak at a variety of events, and can’t remember a time when the topic didn’t turn at some point to military families.
Even today, with the admiral’s retirement at hand, military families’ service and sacrifice remain front and center for this 40-plus year military couple.
In his farewell message to the armed forces today, Mullen said serving troops and their families has been the greatest privilege of his life.
“Everywhere Deborah and I went to see you and your families we walked away humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility you have volunteered to carry and strengthened by the willingness and dignity with which you carry it,” he wrote.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the burdens placed on you and your families,” he added. “Your sacrifices will be forever fixed in my heart, and I am eternally grateful for your service.”
During their four-year tenure, the Mullens have worked to bring light to the sacrifices made each day by troops and their families, and to improve the support offered to them.
This past summer, I attended the launch of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a DOD program aimed at expanding job opportunities for military spouses. The Mullens were there to help kick off the program along with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, another staunch military family advocate.
In her remarks, Mrs. Mullen acknowledged the difficulties military spouses face in finding jobs, not due to their qualifications or training, but due to their frequent moves.
Most of those job seekers are women, she noted at the time, “educated, resilient, serious women who possess strong values and even stronger work ethic.”
Spouse employment is just one of the many family issues the Mullens have addressed. To name just a few, they’ve spotlighted the importance of seeking mental health care, worked to improve care for wounded warriors, and reached out to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Through his “Conversation With the Country” initiative, the chairman has encouraged local communities to understand the value of veterans and their families.
With his own farewell message sent, Mullen read his wife’s farewell to families during his retirement ceremony today.
“Nothing can be more trying at times than life in the military -- the deployments, the stress, the uncertainty and the fear,” the admiral read. “But then, nothing born from ease and comfort can ever foster the pride and the resilience that military families exude every day.
“It has been my honor -- my deep honor -- to be a military spouse and a Navy wife, and to know so many others who wait and worry and work so hard.
“Thank you for your quiet sacrifice and for empowering me to represent your concerns. It has been the greatest privilege. I will miss the life and I will miss all of you.”
The Mullens may be headed off to what the admiral previously has called “a long winter’s nap,” but they leave behind a legacy of military family support that will last for decades to come.