Joint Chiefs Urge Former Service Members to Serve Their Communities

Feb. 3, 2015 | BY Cheryl Pellerin , DOD News

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs yesterday signed a letter that will go to all transitioning service members, urging them to continue serving the nation as civilians in their communities and in their new jobs.

“We trust that you will accept this challenge and join ranks with the business leaders, volunteers, and public servants in your communities. You have made your mark in uniform and represent the strength of our Nation,” the letter read. “We know you will do the same as veterans, setting the example for the next generation of veterans to follow … It has been our greatest privilege to serve with you, and we look forward with pride to what your future holds. We know it will be extraordinary.”

The 32-star letter is part of a Call to Continued Service campaign that will include a focus by the chairman and a coordinated outreach effort from across the services that reinforces the call to service in the letter.

“It’s my honor to speak on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in support of this initiative,” Dempsey told the military leadership and attendees who represented organizations that support service members, veterans and military families.

The organizations included TAPS, the American Red Cross, Operation Homefront, the USO, Habitat for Humanity International-Veterans Build, Got Your 6, Blue Star Families, the National Military Family Association and many others.

Call to Continued Service

The Call to Continued Service, Dempsey said, “isn't the first time in our history we've done something like send a message to the field … about life in civilian communities for service members as they transition out of uniform.”

In 1949, five-star Army Gen. Omar Bradley, the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote a letter to the force coming out of World War II that was titled, What We Owe Our Country, Dempsey said.

“I'm told that before World War II that [younger] generation was criticized for being soft because of the ‘luxury of freedom,’ -- that's actually the phrase that Omar Bradley used -- and then they were called to war and became what we know today as the Greatest Generation,” the chairman added.

Before 2001, some may have called the younger generation “the Nintendo generation,” he said, “and then along came the wars and we found out just what they were made of.”

After the chairman and the Joint Chiefs signed the letter, a panel of four service members who are in the process of transitioning into civilian life spoke with the audience.

A Positive Impact in any Organization

Army Sgt. First Class Dustin Parchey is a combat medic assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, called the Old Guard, at Joint Base Fort Myer-Henderson Hall. He has 18 years of service and is looking at options for transitioning out of the Army.

“As leaders in the military and for all service members, it's our duty to make a positive impact in any organization we're a part of,” he told the audience.

“As I get ready to transition and head into my civilian life after this, I plan on carrying the same values and the work ethic that I learned in the military into my next profession,” Parchey said.

“I believe that everything I do can be traced back to my time in the military,” he added, “and I want to make the best impact I can.”

Shouldering More Responsibility

Army Staff Sgt. William Thompson, an infantryman with nearly nine years of service and, he said, six signatures short of transition, is applying for civilian jobs.

“There are programs and initiatives out there that have made our transition much easier, so don't get me wrong, those are great,” he said.

But Thompson feels that transitioning service members themselves should shoulder more of the responsibility for making themselves accepted in the civilian world.

Transitioning Into the Future

“Really, it should be on us and on what we used to call the [Army Career and Alumni Program] that’s now called Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program to remind us,” he said, how to leave Army acronyms, jargon and rough humor behind and do what’s necessary to fit into civilian life.

In his comments, Dempsey explained that the Call to Continued Service is meant to encourage service members as they transition into civilian society to keep serving.

“We appreciate everything you all do for us in sending that message and helping reinforce it,” he told the audience, “and you have our commitment to continue to support them as they and their families make the transition into the future.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)