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Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should not be seen as victims but should be given opportunities to work and contribute to their communities, the top US military commander said Sunday.
With both wars winding down, it was time to think about "what images that we want to have of this generation, men and women who serve," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told CNN's "State of the Union."
He said he was concerned that issues such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, rising suicide and divorce rates meant "this generation of veterans may be seen as somehow victims."
"We just find ourselves in one of those cycles of history when we've become a little bit less disciplined, I think, than we need to be."
But he argued today's veterans, who have not been greeted with the same adulation as US troops after World War II, "don't need a handout. They need a handshake."
"This conflict has been a source of strength as well for many, many veterans. And I 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 to their communities," he said.
"So I want it to be a positive image, but there's moments when it feels as though it's slipping to a negative image."
Dempsey said the US military was reaching out to private-public partnerships and other organizations as well as the Veterans Administration to try to ensure an easier transition for troops back into civilian life.
"They don't need to be given something. All they need to be given is an opportunity. And then, you know, we'll all see how powerful they are."