During 34 years of military service, I was compelled to remain neutral in political matters, especially during the 10 years I served as a general officer. However, when I hear a politician disregard the facts and attack a man I know to be a great American, I am compelled to set the record straight. I do so not based on partisan political motives, but based on my desire to have integrity in our political process.
I recently read remarks made by Jim Martin regarding U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, which said that the senator's "uncritical advocacy of the Iraq war has been matched only by his disregard for the soldiers fighting it and their families."
I HAVE KNOWN Sen. Chambliss since 1995, and I can tell you that Mr. Martin has it very wrong. I respect Mr. Martin's military and public service, and conclude that he is badly misinformed. I feel compelled to set the record straight.
l first met Sen. Chambliss when I had the honor of commanding the 347th Wing, at Moody Air Force Base, when Sen. Chambliss represented Georgia's Eighth Congressional District. Moody was not physically located in his district, but it was close enough that Sen. Chambliss represented many of my airmen and their families. I can report that Sen. Chambliss viewed the welfare of each and every one of those families as his personal concern. When he visited my installation, his focus was on those Americans and their problems. It wasn't just handshaking and words -- when he identified problems, he took them to Washington and fixed them.
UNLIKE MANY politicians whose support for the troops is just rhetoric, his record of accomplishment on behalf of American service members and their families is extensive. A list of these accomplishments could fill an edition of your paper, but I'd like to highlight just a few of the recent actions he has taken in support of our military families.
Sen. Chambliss recognized a longstanding inequity in the way reservists and Guardsmen were treated by the law regarding retirement benefits. He wrote legislation to correct this inequity, and he pushed hard to make it law until he successfully closed the deal.
The 2008 Defense Budget also includes the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program offered as an amendment to the bill by Sen. Chambliss. This program creates a national combat veteran reintegration program for service members and their families, providing financial planning and education, small business planning, marriage counseling, community outreach, and veteran benefits education. I can't think of many better ways to provide support for military families than providing for their future.
Sen. Chambliss also cosponsored a measure that authorizes fiscal assistance to school districts serving large numbers of military dependent children. This program offers tutoring, after-school prevention activities, and professional development to educators and counselors regarding family reintegration actions. He authored a provision authorizing military members to carry over 75 days of leave a year and authorizing certain high deploying members to carry over 90 days and have up to four years to use it. He cosponsored an amendment to address failed military housing privatization projects, such as at my old command of Moody Air Force Base.
I COULD GO on and on, but by now you get the idea. Sen. Chambliss has not been one of these people who say they support the troops, but don't do anything about it. He has spent his career in the Congress identifying problems for military families, and taking action. He is that rare public servant who can close the deal and make things happen. For this, he earned my respect many years ago, and that respect is stronger than ever today.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general and a former U.S. military representative to NATO.)