Tags: Hagel | veterans groups

Vets Groups: Hagel Did Best He Could With 'Hand He Was Dealt'

Vets Groups: Hagel Did Best He Could With 'Hand He Was Dealt'
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By    |   Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:25 PM

The surprise resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel left sadness and regret among both veterans' groups and active duty military.

In an article in Defense One, veterans' advocates voiced their disappointment that Hagel, a former Army enlisted man and Vietnam combat veteran, would be leaving the White House as soon as his replacement is confirmed.

“Secretary Hagel was very unique in how he reached out to military people and associations,” Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, told Defense One.

At a time of military cutbacks, Raezer said, Hagel, who hosted monthly luncheons with enlisted men in his Washington office to listen to their concerns, “couldn’t do much about it (cutbacks), but at least he listened and asked questions about the impact (cutbacks) would have on service members and their families.”

During his tenure, Hagel took action on several hot-button issues with veterans' groups, such as blocking the awarding of medals to drone operators, ensuring that veterans' groups would be welcomed on military bases to provide services to veterans, reviewing the military justice system and examining procedures for handling the remains of  POW/MIAs, Defense One noted.

Hagel's resignation "will be a loss to the veterans' community," Dick Newton, retired Air Force three-star general and former vice chief of the Air Force, told Defense One.

"He was a positive influence, not only on the veterans themselves but also on the bureaucracy, helping it to be less rigid in supporting veterans and their families."

Hagel also ordered the Pentagon to review the records of thousands of Vietnam War veterans who received dishonorable discharges to determine if Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) should be considered as a contributing factor in their discharges, and potentially qualifying them for disability pay, CNN reported.

"I think it's a responsibility that I have," Hagel told CNN. "I think that any Vietnam veteran who had the privilege of holding this job that I have would do the same thing, and I just think it's an obligation I have to those I served with."

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Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, told Military.com: "Chuck Hagel is an extraordinarily decent man and he has rendered extraordinary service."

Norb Ryan, head of the Military Officers Association of America, told Defense One that "it was never personal with Secretary Hagel because it was obvious he was doing the best he could do with the deck he was handed."

MacKenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in National Interest: "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had an incredibly difficult job at a time of great global unrest. Simple politics meant he had virtually no good news to report, and yet he attempted to win over the department while ensuring the position was never about him — the exact trait needed at this point in America’s defense draw-down.

"Hopefully, his legacy will show that he did a decent job leading one of the world’s largest organizations and separate his competent stewardship from the messy politics outside of his control."

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The surprise resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel left sadness and regret among both veterans' groups and active duty military.
Hagel, veterans groups
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2014-25-26
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:25 PM
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