September 1, 2011  

Concerned chairman

To Adm. Mike Mullen for showing unusual concern for his troops while serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Mullen, who wraps up his second and final term as chairman this month, worked tirelessly to push policies he believed would improve the lives of those who serve, especially those who were injured in their service, and, notably, the family members who support them.

In his first public address after taking the military’s top uniformed job, Mullen talked about improving care for troops with post-traumatic stress disorder, breathing air into often-constricted discussions of mental health.

This year, after the Military Times reported evidence that many troops were being overmedicated in combat theaters, Mullen’s top-level attention helped guide the military’s search for solutions.

Perhaps his signature moment was his decision to tell lawmakers that he believed that forbidding gays and lesbians from serving openly was wrong. He said “don’t ask, don’t tell” encouraged lying, which undermined individual and organizational integrity, unit cohesion and morale far more than the presence of gay members. His testimony shifted the debate from whether the policy should be overturned to when.