• Adm. Mullen: Never forget America's vets

  • America must continue to embrace those in the armed forces when they serve and when they come home, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday.

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  • America must continue to embrace those in the armed forces when they serve and when they come home, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday.
    “They and their families have sacrificed so much for us,” said Adm. Mike Mullen (ret.), as he accepted the annual Harry S. Truman Public Service Award in a ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence. Mullen was chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the highest uniformed position in the military, from 2007 to 2011, making him the chief military adviser to Presidents Bush and Obama.
    He said he accepted the award – often given to presidents, senators and, last year, to those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan – on behalf of those with whom he served. Nothing he achieved in his 42 years in uniform, he said, was without their support.
    “It’s a team effort through and through,” he said.
    But he said he’s concerned about an unintentional but growing separation between those who serve and the rest of American society. He recalled the Vietnam era, a time when he was already in the Navy.
    “I’ve seen what it’s like when America turns away from its military and its military turns away from the country,” he said. “We can never go there again.”
    Indeed, he said, the county has broadly and deeply supported the troops since that time, but the nature of the volunteer military and the nature of America’s modern wars with no sacrifice at home and little effect on civilian life – “No blood drives, no rationing, no neighborhood watch,” he said – inevitably creates a gap. Some families are centered on service in the ranks while for others – people busy with their own lives, he said – it would never occur them that military service is something they’d want to do.
    That gap inevitably grows over time, he said, and many in civilian life are not tuned in to the reality of service personnel who have served five, six, even seven tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – experiences that deeply change those people.
    “They are wise beyond their years, and they are ready to lead again” in communities at home, he said, adding that they have handled large responsibilities while in the service. Still, he said, 1,000 veterans come home every day but only 100 find a job.
    “We can do better. We must do better for those who have sacrificed so much,” he said.
    The city of Independence presents the Truman Award every year to someone who exemplifies the 33rd president’s qualities of dedication, industry, ability, honesty and integrity.
    This year there also was a special recognition of longtime Independence resident Dick Wilson, a well-known Kansas City radio personality for four decades and also a local volunteer with groups such as the Music Arts Institute and the Child Abuse Prevention Association, both in Independence. He encouraged people to find their talents and use them to the benefit of their community.
    Page 2 of 2 - “There’s a lot that you can do that helps out the city,” he said afterward.
    Mullen is a native of Los Angeles. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968 and rose through the ranks, commanding three ships, an aircraft carrier battle group and a fleet. He was chief of naval operations from 2005 to 2007. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he oversaw the winding down of the war in Iraq and changes in strategy in Afghanistan, and he successfully pushed to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays and lesbians in the military.

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