By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2012 – As New York and surrounding areas continue to rebound from Superstorm Sandy’s devastation, thousands gathered today to watch the 2012 New York City Veterans Day Parade.
It also signifies the ethic that service members have shown in the storm’s aftermath and “especially animates the military as an institution.”
“For the country to see that the military [has] something to offer here at home -- not just Iraq, not just Afghanistan -- [is] … special,” he said.
The deputy secretary also acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War’s onset.
“We’re all mindful that when that generation of veterans came home, they didn’t get the welcome they deserved,” Carter said. “So here’s an opportunity to say to those veterans of Vietnam, maybe for the first time for some, … ‘Welcome home. At last, welcome home.”
As the era of Afghanistan and Iraq comes to a close and the military draws down in size, it is more important than ever to help veterans be the “incredible leaders and contributors they can be,” Carter said.
Carter described the Defense Department’s three-pronged approach to ensuring the nation paves an easier path to employment for veterans returning home with a spectrum of skills and experience.
The first step, he said, involves offering transition assistance for veterans still in service. This method, he explained, will foster a proactive approach in translating service members’ military experience into civilian terms as they decide among going to work, starting a business of their own or returning to school.
“You need to start that well back in a service member’s career,” Carter said.
The second step involves accelerating the transition process, specifically for benefits. “[Veterans] deserve them promptly,” Carter said. “We’re working very hard to improve that.”
Lastly, the deputy secretary said, the Defense Department must continue to focus on mental health awareness improvements as the scientific basis strengthens for providing help to veterans in need, he said.
“I think we have the scientific basis now that we didn’t have in the Vietnam era, the Korean era and the World War II era, … all the way back to shellshock in World War I,” Carter said.
DOD and other government agencies strive not only to understand the hidden wounds of war, he said, but also to destigmatize them so that seeking help becomes a reflection of strength, not weakness.