(DOD photo by MC1 Chad J. McNeeley)
For the first time ever (we think), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited the great state of Idaho for a whirlwind tour that lasted about 24 hours. In that short time, he packed in five separate events to address a variety of audiences.
On Sunday night he had dinner with about 250 families of deployed troops and fallen heroes, spending quiet time with the latter before the dinner began. A VTC link was set up with deployed National Guard troops in Iraq, not only allowing them to see Admiral Mullen speak, but also to allow family members to say hello to their loved ones. (Transcript can be read here.)
On Monday he visited with the Mayors from ten counties in southwestern Idaho, then spent a couple of hours at the VA Medical Center, then addressed the City Club of Boise (drawing the largest crowd in the organization’s history), and wrapped it all up at Boise State University where he held a Town Hall meeting. In every venue, he invited and encouraged questions from the audience – with no limits on the topics.
Admiral Mullen at the City Club of Boise (DOD photo by MC1 Chad J. McNeeley)
I have never seen a high ranking military official, let alone the most senior military officer in the country, allow such unfettered access. He answered every question on topics ranging from VA benefits to our role in Libya.
His real message, though, was that communities need to work together to ensure our returning troops – whether they be National Guardsmen returning to their jobs after deployment, or young veterans leaving the service at the end of their enlistments – receive all the tools they need to stay healthy, pursue meaningful careers, and contribute. If we do it right, if we are able to combine the efforts of DOD, the VA, community leaders and nonprofits, there is literally no limit to what they can do.
It was a special day in Idaho, but his message was what made it great.
Admiral Mullen is our hero of the week.