While past generations of American military veterans have been viewed in their post-war years as heroes, such as in World War II, and with disdain, as in Vietnam, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said he fears that those fighting in the Middle East recently will be seen as victims.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, rising rates of suicide, rising divorce rates and sexual assaults combine to give an impression that veterans as a whole should be looked at with pity, Dempsey said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
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"We just find ourselves in one of those cycles of history when we've become a little bit less disciplined than we need to be," he said. "I want it to be a positive image, but there's moments when it feels like it's slipping into a negative image."
The current conflict has been a source of strength for many veterans, Dempsey said. "And I'd like the American people to give veterans opportunities not as a handout, but rather to recognize what they might bring to the workplace, what they might bring to their communities."
Though the military opposes taking sexual assault claims out of the chain of command, Dempsey said that if Congress decides to do so the military will "salute and execute."
He said the military has solved many problems in the past, such as racial and drug issues, that many deemed unsolvable, and he believes current methods can work if allowed to do so.
"And we didn't do it with the exclusion of the commander," he said. "We did it by making the commander take responsibility."
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