This is another installment in our Lessons from War project, in which Jan C. Scruggs interviews prominent Americans about their experiences concerned the Vietnam War and veterans. Today we present the second half of our interview with Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. 

Gen. Odierno West Point, 1976. Via West Point Public Affairs.

Gen. Odierno West Point, 1976. Via West Point Public Affairs.

Gen. Odierno became the 38th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army on Sept. 7, 2011. Gen. Odierno attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1976 with a commission in Field Artillery. From October 2001 to June 2004, Gen. Odierno commanded the 4th Infantry Division, leading the division during Operation Iraqi Freedom from April 2003 to March 2004. From December 2006 to February 2008, he served as the Commanding General, Multi-National Corps – Iraq (III Corps) as the operational commander of the surge of forces.  Later, he served as the Commanding General, Multi- National Force – Iraq and subsequently United States Forces – Iraq, from September 2008 until September 2010. Most recently he commanded United States Joint Forces Command. 

What do veterans need to remember when leaving the military to begin their civilian careers?

You represent generations of United States veterans, linked by service and dedication to our nation.  Your service should not end when you hang up your uniform.  Your efforts have shaped the very structure of our military and the manner in which we secure the freedoms of our nation.  Efforts such as this Education Center inform the public about the ways in which you have continued to serve this nation.  It gives a voice to those who have defended freedom.

It is important for citizens to find ways to serve. There is no greater example than our veterans who continue to serve their communities in many ways beyond the wearing of the uniform.  There are many ways in which we can contribute to making our communities better, our states stronger, and our country greater through your continued service.

Our veterans possess certain characteristics that stem from their time in service, qualities such as discipline, moral courage, physical and mental toughness, and loyalty.  Our veterans add tremendous value to any organization. They may or may not have experience in a particular sector or type of business, but what they always bring to any organization is leadership. What they bring is dedication.  What they bring is selflessness.  What they bring is a work ethic like you have never seen before.  We need to reinforce this message to all veterans – and we need to help them build the skill sets they need to transition to the civilian sector to be successful.

Our armed services are going to downsize in personnel over the next few years. That means more young men and women are going to come out of the Army looking for work.  As a country, we owe it to our veterans to find new roles for them within our communities that capitalize upon their great strengths.  We owe them an opportunity.

It is important that we all believe that, “once a soldier, always a soldier.” Collectively, we have to build an environment in which you become a “soldier for life.” The time you spent in the Army should not and will not be forgotten. This Education Center is one way in which we can ensure that veterans remain connected to the Army today and in the future.  It ensures the continuity of the Army values beyond the uniform. It helps veterans tell their Army story by sharing their personal experiences with their communities.

There is no greater honor than to serve and defend your country. Your willingness to sacrifice is what has made our nation great and will continue to make this country great in the future.  It is very important that we educate veterans on the numerous Army, government and community programs and support networks to aid in their transition back to civilian life.

As you know, we have an effort underway to welcome home the veterans in 2014 with the Education Center at The Wall. What impact do you think this facility will have on our nation’s appreciation of our military veterans? 

No soldier joins the Army in order to gain personal recognition. They do it because of their willingness to serve.  They do it to be a part of something greater than themselves.  They do it because they believe in the moral and ethical values that make the United States what it is and they want to defend those values through service to the country.

The Education Center at The Wall will bring attention to the importance of service and to the sacrifices of millions upon millions who have brought greater peace and stability around the world and security to our nation.  It is essential that we educate those who have not served so that they better understand the sacrifices that have been undertaken by our veterans and their families to ensure our freedom and the freedom of generations to come. This center will be a visible reminder to all visitors of the service and sacrifices of men and women in uniform who volunteered to serve our great nation.


Read Part 1 of the interview here.