Tomorrow, Admiral Mike Mullen will retire as the seventeenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Pentagon and our country will honor his 43 years of service with a well-deserved ceremony, and indeed, Admiral Mullen, in his four years as Chairman, has overseen international conflicts, two wars, and policy changes including the historic repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).
In 2010, during a hearing on the repeal of DADT, Admiral Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity: Theirs as an individual, ours as an institution.”
Only a few inside the White House and Pentagon knew what was coming at that hearing. Certainly no one in the media, advocates, members of Congress, or bloggers knew what Admiral Mullen would say. But his words proved to be a critical turning point in the repeal debate. Admiral Mullen and Secretary Robert Gates set the tone and became a focal point during much of the repeal debate as they moved forward smartly on what President Obama had tasked them to do. Their voices allowed members of Congress, the military, and the American people to see senior military leaders and the rank and file in action as they eventually reached a thoughtful and measured decision to support repeal.
Admiral Mullen, probably more than any other military leader, provided the steady assurances that many people were looking for in this debate. More importantly, the JCS Chairman never underestimated his military’s ability to adapt and make this needed change. While he made it known that allowing gay and lesbian service members to be open about who they are in the military was simply “the right thing to do,” it was the military, his military, not Congress, not the courts, that ultimately made this historic change.
The fight is not over; we know there is more work to be done. But the monumental repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would not have been possible without Admiral Mullen’s dedication to integrity and service. We salute Admiral Mullen’s commitment to honoring all our men and women in uniform. Our military and our country are stronger because of his decades of leadership and commitment to all service members and their families.
SLDN wishes Admiral and Mrs. Mullen well and good health as they embark upon the next exciting chapter in their remarkable lives.
09-29-11 By Aubrey Sarvis, Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director |