Odierno: Giving Back is an Important Part of Military Service

DODLive Article published October 9, 2015

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

15 Champions for Children WEB 171Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno has just begun a new adventure in life – retirement. But a lot of what he’s doing is a continuation of what he did throughout his career, and that was being a leader by giving back to families.

Odierno spent 39 years in uniform, more than five of which were served in war-torn Iraq. When he wasn’t commanding battlefields, he was exemplifying leadership and service to military families. The general has helped support the families of fallen service members through programs like Support Outreach Services, Folds of Honor and the Patriot Foundation.

“For me, it’s really important to be involved in things like this,” he said. Odierno said Americans look up to service members, so the most important thing that military folks can do to help is offer their time.

“To give people your time means you’re really dedicated to helping others,” the general said. “I think the one thing soldiers can give is their time. They can lead and show others the importance of helping. There’s also a satisfaction that you get out of it.”

Odierno attended the Champions for Children Gala in New York City last weekend to support New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin, whose charity raises money to financially and emotionally support the families of children with cancer.

The general, who played college football and is a big Giants fan, met Coughlin in 2009 when the coach visited Iraq on a USO tour. They became fast friends, and Odierno has admired the coach’s charity work ever since.

“For me, it’s about setting an example for the rest of America that everyone should give back,” Odierno said. “It’s important when you see people like Tom Coughlin do this – someone who’s very busy and very visible. People know who he is, and they see he’s giving his time. So, I want to be part of that.”

Odierno said his desire to serve others largely stemmed from the peace of mind he felt when someone was helping his family with day-to-day chores or providing a moment of fun for his kids while he was serving.

Now that he’s retired, Odierno plans to stay involved with organizations that directly help soldiers, but he’s looking to expand his reach. He’s already started looking into the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Easter Seals and Army Emergency Relief.

“I’m excited that I’ll be able to get involved with a lot of these great organizations,” Odierno said.

Odierno said Coughlin, who has invited soldiers and their families to Giants’ practices and games, as well as visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, is someone who also exemplifies service to others.

“I have a deep respect for Tom Coughlin. He is someone who has earned the respect and trust of so many. He’s someone who has tremendous character, and I want to support his efforts,”Odierno said.

Several New York Giants players and other notable figures attended the Champions for Children Gala, which reached its $1.5 million fundraising goal for childhood cancer awareness.

Odierno said aside from charitable work, he plans to get involved with some global issues in his newfound spare time, as well as do what most people are excited about in retirement – relax!