(WASHINGTON, DC) – “President-elect Obama’s selection of General Eric Shinseki as the next Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs is a promising choice,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). “We have no doubt that General Shinseki has the integrity and personal fortitude to usher in the real changes needed to make the VA a true steward of our nation’s veterans and their families.
“His selection certainly lives up to Mr. Obama’s promise to bring change and hope to Washington,” Rowan said. “VA bureaucrats, for whom ‘change’ is a dirty word, will learn that there really is a new game in town. Veterans of all political persuasions should take heart and applaud this choice.”
General Shinseki, 66, is the first Asian American to be a four-star general and to head one of the military services. In June 1999, he assumed duties as the 34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army. He ran afoul of the rose-colored optimism of the Bush administration before the war in Iraq, when he testified that it would probably require “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” to maintain the peace after the invasion of Iraq. Subsequent events have proved Shinseki correct.
The general served two combat tours in Vietnam, with the 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions as an artillery forward observer and as commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry. He was severely wounded in action, losing part of a leg. In his long career, among his awards have been the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with “V” Device and two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal.
“The most effective administrator of the VA was General Omar Bradley, who was brought in by President Harry Truman to clean up the old Veterans Administration,” Rowan said. “We hope that General Shinseki will follow General Bradley’s example and exert the strong leadership needed to overhaul today’s VA, particularly with the seemingly intransigent backlog of more than 600,000 claims and appeals that seem to stagnate in the Veterans Benefits Administration,” Rowan said.