After Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki appeared before a Senate committee last week, one television commentator indicated that when Shinseki said he was “mad as hell” about problems within the VA hospital system, he didn’t actually look all that mad. True, he didn’t. But those of us who have known and served with Shinseki realize that this lack of outward emotion should not be read as a lack of passion.
I first met Shinseki 20 years ago, when he was the Army’s chief of training. He had a low-key personality, but he was a passionate advocate for obtaining the facilities, equipment and modern concepts that would keep our Army the best in the world. I was impressed.
Shinseki was soon gone from the Pentagon and headed to Fort Hood to command the 1st Cavalry Division, a choice assignment for a young major general. But in a little more than a year he was back in Washington as the Army’s assistant deputy chief for operations, yet another select position. He did not like coming back to Washington; he preferred to be with the troops. In speeches, he used to introduce himself simply as, “My name is Shinseki; I’m a soldier.”