Rich Galen

I drove down to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina to attend the retirement ceremony of Colonel Mike Ceroli.

I have written about Col. Ceroli before - including from Iraq where we first met more than 10 years ago. He was the commander of the Psychological Operations battalion while I was there.

The ceremony on Friday was at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare center of which PsyOps (now referred to as Military Information Support Operations - MISO) is a component.

This was not my first trip to Ft. Bragg. I once spent the better part of 10 weeks there back in the late 1960's when I went through basic training there.

In my early days in Iraq I had to go to a place called Ramadi which, at the time, was under the control of the 82nd Airborne Division which is based at … Ft. Bragg.

When I was there some of the young soldiers asked if I had military experience. I said that I did; a combined six years in the New Jersey and Ohio National Guard.

Then, as young soldiers will do, they asked where I had "taken basic;" where I had gone through basic training.

"Well," I said, "as luck would have it, I took basic at Ft. Bragg."

Their BS antennae went sky high because there are no basic training operations at Ft. Bragg, so how could I have …

"But remember," I continued, "this was when gas lamps provided the majority of interior light and mules were the principal form of transportation."

I am proud of my friendship with Mike Ceroli as I am with the many other brave men and women who allowed me to stand in their collective shadows during my time in Iraq.

Some years ago, I gave a speech across the Potomac River from Mullings World HQ to units of the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews. I told them that when I was in the National Guard - at the height of domestic turmoil over the Vietnam war - some of my colleagues chose to wear civilian clothes to and from drills rather than put up with dirty looks - or worse - from Americans who otherwise would have seen them in their military uniforms.

I told them that, largely due to the high level of their participation in an all-volunteer military, Americans saw active duty service members in a completely different, and completely appropriate, light.

Except, it seems for the leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Veterans Administration became a full-blown cabinet department on March 15, 1989 - just beyond 25 years ago. At the time, President George H.W. Bush, a veteran of World War II, said:

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at