Sunday, November 11, 2012

Carter: Parade Signifies Military Ethic, Nation’s Gratitude

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.

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Marines prepare to enter the Veterans Day Parade in New York, Nov. 11, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Flurry

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, an honorary grand marshal, noted the parade was the first large-scale event since the city canceled its annual marathon this month and said it conveys the military’s connection to the city and to the world.

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.

Panetta Salutes Veterans’ Selflessness, Sacrifice

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2012 – As the nation observes the Veterans Day holiday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has issued a message paying tribute to the men and women who have served the United States in uniform.

Here is the secretary’s message:

Since our nation's founding, brave young Americans from every generation have answered the call to serve in uniform and put their lives on the line to defend this country. Today, we honor all of those who’ve added new chapters to that very proud legacy of selflessness and sacrifice.

On this Veterans Day I recall how, as a boy in California, I had the great privilege of greeting and thanking soldiers that were stationed near my home and destined to fight in World War II. In the years that followed, I knew veterans of the Korean War, who fought bravely in unimaginably difficult conditions.

During the Vietnam era, I served in the Army and I remember how our nation failed to fully recognize the costs and sacrifices made by those who served in that war. Our nation has learned from that failure, and as we mark the 50th anniversary of that war, we honor our Vietnam veterans for all they have done for our country.

The United States is now emerging from the longest continuous time of war in its history, and a new generation of veterans is returning home. They have carried a very heavy burden. They’ve dealt with multiple deployments, long separations from loved ones, and the tragic consequences of war. Some have sustained grievous, life-altering injuries, and they are dealing with significant challenges, both seen and unseen.

Our veterans are also much stronger because of their hard won experiences in the deserts of Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. They are leaders who take responsibility and initiative, who think independently, and who inspire others. They are trained to operate some of the world’s most sophisticated technical equipment. Above all, they love the country that they’ve served so well in uniform, and they are already giving back to their communities here at home.
Over the next five years, more than one million service men and women will leave the armed services and transition back to civilian life. Some will finally be able to marry the person they love and start a family. Others will be reunited with husbands, wives, and children after years spent apart. By pursuing the dream of giving their children a better life, our nation’s veterans will help shape the future of this country. They will be doctors and lawyers, teachers and nurses, mayors and members of Congress.

America owes each of our veterans – from every generation – gratitude and support. November is Military Family Month, a time for all Americans to do more to recognize and support the members of their community who have fought on our behalf. For those who are transitioning out of military service, in particular, we must do everything we can to help them find a job, start a business, or obtain a quality education. These veterans are national assets who stand ready to contribute to our economic recovery and to a stronger America.

Let us all renew our pledge to fight for those who fight for us with such bravery and distinction. In some small way, today and every day, find a way to thank a veteran. Nothing means more to them than knowing that their service and sacrifice is appreciated right here at home. Thanks to our veterans, the American dream is safe and secure for us and our children.

Thank you, and may God bless all Americans serving around the world in uniform.

Obama Recognizes Veterans’ Service, Sacrifice

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2012 – President Barack Obama laid a flowered wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns today in a traditional display of remembrance and gratitude for every service member who has worn the nation’s uniform.

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President Barack Obama and Army Sgt. 1st Class Chad Stackpole lay a wreath to mark Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Nov. 11, 2012. Stackpole, sergeant of the guard for the tomb, is assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as "The Old Guard." U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Megan Garcia

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Also attending the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery were First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
“Each year, on the 11th day of the 11th month, we pause as a nation and as a people to pay tribute to you, to thank you, to honor you, the heroes over the generations who have served this country of ours with distinction,” Obama said. He also acknowledged the toll taken on veterans’ loved ones, who he said continue to “walk these quiet hills and kneel before a final resting place of those they cherish the most.”

The president assured that the sacrifices of living and fallen veterans and their families and friends would never be forgotten.

“It is in that sacrifice that we see the enduring spirit of America. … Since even before our founding, we have been blessed with an unbroken chain of patriots who have always come forward to serve,” Obama said. “Time and again, at home and abroad, you and your families have sacrificed to protect that powerful promise that all of us hold so dear: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Though he acknowledged the gratitude of the nation, the president also noted that no ceremony, parade, hug or handshake is enough to truly honor veterans’ service.

“We must commit this day and every day to serving you as well as you’ve served us,” the president said.
Obama related the significance of today’s service members, the 9/11 generation that “stepped forward after the towers fell and in the years since have stepped into history.”

“You toppled a dictator and battled insurgency in Iraq,” he said. “You pushed back the Taliban and decimated al-Qaida in Afghanistan. You delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.”

These deeds drive the commitment to care for veterans, as more than a million warriors will transition back into civilian life over the next few years, the president said.

“This is the first Veterans Day in a decade in which there are no American troops fighting and dying in Iraq,” the president said over applause, adding that 33,000 troops also have returned from Afghanistan.
“Our heroes are coming home. … They’ll take off their uniforms and take on a new and lasting role: they will be veterans,” he said.

As veterans return, the president explained, it falls to Americans as fellow citizens to be there for them and their families as those who once wore the uniform now find new ways to serve.

“Some of our most patriotic businesses have hired and trained 125,000 veterans and military spouses,” the president said.

He also pledged to maintain the 9/11 GI Bill, which has helped thousands of veterans pursue their education, including certifications, undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees.

Obama also pledged to champion the cause of those who suffer invisible wounds of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. “No veteran should have to wait months or years for the benefits that you’ve earned, so we will continue to attack the claims backlog,” Obama said.

And as the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the president said, the government has secured new disability benefits for veterans who fought there and were exposed to Agent Orange.
“We carry on knowing that our best days always lie ahead,” Obama said. “You needed it, you fought for it, and we got it done.”

Dempsey Says He’s Listened, Learned During Korea Visit

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Nov. 11, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today that he has learned a lot during his visit to Korea and will put that information to use when he returns to Washington.

In an interview with American Forces Network Korea following a visit to the Demilitarized Zone, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey thanked service members based on the Korean Peninsula for their service this Veterans Day, and he praised them for serving here in an ethical and professional manner.

The chairman said he considers the U.S. relationship with South Korea one of the most important America has in the world.

Although Dempsey has been to Korea many times and has hosted his counterpart in Washington, this was his first visit to the DMZ.

“In my 38 years [of military service], I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the joint security area where we maintain our commitment to our South Korean allies and also to the United Nations to maintain the armistice,” he said. “It’s a remarkable thing to see our soldiers and the soldiers of the Republic of Korea shoulder to shoulder in front of all others standing vigilant and ensuring the armistice remains in effect.”

About 28,000 U.S. service members are based in South Korea. Most are serving unaccompanied tours, yet more family members are living here, and the chairman said he sees benefits for the families.

“My children lived with us for five or six years in Germany, and what it did was give them an appreciation for another culture that they otherwise wouldn’t have been immersed in,” he said. “We moved them around from place to place in my time in service, and I think it has made them very versatile and resilient and broader, really than they would have been otherwise.”

He thanked family members for their willingness to serve, and he encouraged them to enjoy the experience. “I think that when they get a chance to reflect on their time in Korea, they will find that it was a rewarding time in their lives,” he said.

The chairman also took a broader view for military families around the world.

“As we take a look at our future – where we will find ourselves in the future – what I would assure our family members is that wherever we place them, we will continue to ensure they have the best possible housing, the proper medical care, good schools and opportunities to the extent that we can create them for children and spouses to live a normal life,” he said.

He admitted that this will be harder to do in some places than others, but said “our commitment is to work toward that.”

Freedom is free

Commentary by Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco
U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

11/11/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Both of my grandfathers and my uncle were veterans. And until the day he died, my dad's father had a yellow ribbon magnet of the back of his car that read "Freedom isn't Free." After he passed away and I bought the car from my father and uncle, I kept the magnet there, firmly believing in the message.

I'm not so sure I do anymore. A few months ago I was participating in a professional forum with some peers when I came to a realization. For the vast majority of people who enjoy its benefits, freedom is free; it's supported by donations and, in return, the primary donors earn the title "Veteran."

The more I thought about this idea, the more I began to realize it just felt right and I became more excited about putting it into words.

Our nation's veterans have donated their time, many for 20 years or more, their sweat, their skills, some of their rights, and, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, their futures.

But the donations aren't limited to those who wear the uniform. Their families make donations too. Children donate their first steps, their first home run or dance recital, high school graduation, even their births so their parents may serve the ideals of something greater than themselves.

Husbands and wives donate restful nights, a two-parent household, the ability to call their loved one just to say hello. Parents donate their ability to keep their child safe when he or she gets on a plane bound for a war zone. The list of donations is endless and, just like other worthy causes, every little bit helps.

Veterans Day is a time to stop and reflect on the donations that allow us to enjoy our freedoms today. For the majority of Americans, freedom is free for one reason: someone else made the donation, freely and willingly. The veterans' cemeteries are full of donors who have earned my gratitude for their part in securing the freedom my family and I enjoy.

A donation is something freely given with nothing asked in return. That's what makes the donations of our nation's veterans so special. And there is something we can do in return to thank them, though they haven't asked. We can exercise that freedom. Without that, the sacrifices of our veterans are meaningless.

I am proud to see people using their freedoms -- freedom of speech, their right to assemble, and their freedom to elect their leaders. It doesn't matter who they vote for, if they gather in support of a cause I believe in (or not), or say something I don't agree with. It's enough to know they value the donation of others enough to avoid letting it go to waste.

Today I'm going to reflect on the many donations my grandfathers and uncle made, and I'm going to be grateful. I'm going to think about the donation I first made 15 years ago to support my family's freedoms. And I'm going to seek out a young Airman at the start of his career and make sure I thank him for his donation, because he's going to make sure that some day, when my children face the decision to donate or not, they have the freedom to choose. Happy Veterans Day.