Wounded warrior advocate retires from military
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks with Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, right, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno before Chiarelli's retirement ceremony on Jan. 31, 2012. DOD photo
January 31st, 2012
06:01 PM ET

Wounded warrior advocate retires from military

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

Military leaders past and present gathered Tuesday morning to say farewell to the Army vice chief of staff, Gen. Pete Chiarelli.

In a job that often goes largely unnoticed outside of the Pentagon, Chiarelli has made a name for himself as an outspoken and tireless advocate for soldiers, especially those who are victims of what Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called "the unseen wounds of war."

Chiarelli's 40 years in the Army saw him rise through the ranks by a path similar to that of other generals - tank battalion commander, commander of the First Cavalry Division, commander of the Multi-National Corps in Iraq when the war there was at its worst.

"When he came back from war, he realized that we had this enduring challenge with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress injury," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "He drove our Army, drove it, to recognize the problem, to reduce the stigma, to confront it."

Panetta said Chiarelli has been the Pentagon's leader on the issue.

"He's been an outspoken advocate for wounded warriors, in particular those suffering from the unseen wounds of war," Panetta said. "More than any other officer, Pete has fought to eliminate the stigma from those with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues. And he's devoted every ounce of his energy to the problem of suicide in the Army."

Chiarelli himself, speaking within shouting distance of Arlington National Cemetery, was close to tears about the soldiers who died during his time in Iraq.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think of the 650 soldiers I lost over the course of two years," he said. "I would trade all the medals and ribbons on my chest and every bit of rank to get just one back."

Panetta, who is not shy about telling the story of his Italian roots, said Chiarelli's leaving means a special void in the Department of Defense.

"Pete's retirement from the Army signals not only the conclusion of this distinguished career, it's also the end, at least for the moment, of the Army's version of of the Italian Duo, the Spaghetti Generals, with Ray Odierno and Pete Chiarelli in the lead, not to mention a secretary of defense who was once a former army officer," Panetta said. "All of us have been doing it the Italian style. Which means that the Army is family and you don't mess with the family."

Panetta closed his remarks by returning to the theme of their common Italian heritage. "My mother and father would acknowledge a good man by calling him something special in Italian, a 'bon homo,' which means a good man, and Pete, you are a bon homo."

Chiarelli said that after he took off his uniform Tuesday, he'd only put it on again one more time, for his granddaughter Amelia's preschool share day, which happens just before his retirement becomes official.

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Filed under: Army • Chiarelli • Dempsey • Iraq • Panetta • Secretary of Defense
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    • Kevin

      Hey , Sorry for the late response. I erporitizid it at the bottom of my to do list. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Please indulge in : Mr Avery, While a majority of e-mails pertaining to your distaste for US care packages will likely be hostile in nature, I assure you that my message will strive to be anything but. As a US soldier and an officer in a light infantry brigade, I have seen both the dark side of humanity as well as sacrifice in its most pure form. Though not as educated, nor as knowledgeable as you in a vast number of areas, I may speak from experience when noting our operations overseas. While it is true that armies deal in death, we also strive to protect life, as a medical platoon leader in Afghanistan we served both civilian and hostile force with the same diligence and care as we would an American causality. On numerous occasions we treated children screaming from the shrapnel of a misplaced footstep as well as those who proved to be the genesis of the aforementioned injury. Professor Avery, we do not deal solely in death, as if we did I would not find this career to be a suitable alternative to the academic realm of which I one day wish to return. In fact my job is honestly the antithesis of death, as it is for a vast majority of those who adorn the regalia of a soldier in a modern army. Unlike our enemies, we care for those who bleed, regardless of their affiliation, unlike those who wish us harm, we attempt to abide by the laws of war, and unlike those who leave explosives in crowded streets, we attempt to protect those who cannot protect themselves. While you may see this as an ignorant and idealized version of war, I could say the same for the comments you yourself had made. I am not a murderer Mr. Avery, nor do I condone the slaughter of civilians, I am a man who made a choice to protect living beings in a land that I would otherwise have never seen. True I have witnessed death, from the labored respirations of a dying member of the ANA, to the metaphorical demise of innocence, found in the tear strewn face of a soldier who had lost a comrade before their eyes. You see Mr. Avery, we were not the agents of death, but rather the nemesis of it. Even when the biological limitations of an individual were on the verge of collapse, we only relented in our battle with mortality when our clinical limitations and beleaguered efforts, could not overcome the inevitable. I am not asking to be called a hero sir, a title that would be better applied to the remarkable men who served under me, I’m simply asking to not be labeled a murderer. As a man of law you can see the distinct difference, if your generalization of those in uniform were to be true, and if all men and women were guilty by association, one would ultimately be forced to surmise that there would be no one left to guard the institutions, as we would all be interned. True, many of us are unremarkable, and unlike those with an outstanding intellect and pension for academia, we found a career in which we can excel. However, regardless of political ideations, we are often taken from home to fulfill the call of duty, both the one were a legally bound to answer, and the one we ourselves intrinsically create. We leave our wives, children, pets, parents, loved ones, bills and personal strife behind us, for a penance of what we should be paid, in a land we seldom know. You see sir, a care package is not a message of death, nor is it a cluster of bullets in a chamber pointed at a child, if anything, it’s a reminder that we are remembered and we are longed for.”I'm curious to know which photos in this blogpost you deem to be cosmetic as opposed to candid. Thanks for your time. I hope you continue to sleep peaceably at night .Reply

      March 3, 2012 at 12:07 am | Reply
  6. CC

    It's "buon uomo".

    February 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  7. Another Soldier

    I have had the privilege of serving with then COL Chiarelli and he sincerely cares about Soldiers. He has done amazing work to bring Wounded Warriors and their tribulations to the forefront to ensure they get the help and care they need. He truly is a good man. He will be missed from the Army, but I am sure he will continue his efforts as a civilian.

    January 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  8. Gop21

    Great man to bad he could not save anymore men but nonetheless a great American solder just like every other American servicemen and women serving it the US and abroad

    January 31, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply

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