Retired SMA visits APG with message of hope, call to action for disabled
April 27, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Service to Soldiers was always a passion for Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.
Now retired, Preston displayed that passion at Aberdeen Proving Ground April 20 when he spoke at Aberdeen chapter's monthly Association of the U.S. Army luncheon.
Preston joked with the audience that he had begun to enjoy a leisurely retirement--getting up at 10 o'clock in morning and watching television. But that lifestyle didn't last long, and by his second day of retirement, he had decided to get up and get involved.
That involvement includes helping severely disabled warriors build specially adapted homes to accommodate their disabilities. Preston is now the president and director of Homes for Our Troops, a national nonprofit organization committed to helping service members who have serious disabilities and injuries since September 11, 2001.
"It is our duty and our honor to assist severely injured veterans and their immediate Families by raising donations of money, building materials and professional labor, and to coordinate the process of building a home that provides maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently," he said.
Preston said there have been 50,000 veterans wounded since 9-11 and 1,600 of them are considered "severely disabled."
He introduced Marine corporal Jeff Kessler, a bilateral amputee, and his wife Morgan, and their children Gavin and Bentley who were attending the lunch. Kessler is a Cecil County native who is line for a home.
Preston said the project is a great opportunity to give back to "those who have sacrificed so much." The lunch also served as a fundraising event for the family.
Another focus of Preston's presentation was the manpower and fiscal reductions facing the Army.
"The new challenge today is fiscal; it's money," he explained.
According to Preston, the country has a deficit issue that has become a national security issue. The challenge is finding the right balance.
"Historically, after every conflict, we have a drawdown," he said.
In fact, Preston said he joined the Army in 1975 after the drawdown that followed the Vietnam War. He explained that the Army loses a lot of talent during drawdowns and that it is always a challenge to gain that talent level back.
He assured the audience that no matter what size the force becomes, he was confident that Army leadership would ensure that it will be the best trained, best equipped, and best manned Army in the world.
"We will take flags (of units) down rather than keep them at a level where they can't accomplish their missions," said Preston.
In closing, he reminded the audience that it has been the noncommissioned officer corps that has been the glue that has held units together through multiple rotations in combat. Preston said it will be the NCOs who are the glue that will help the Army overcome these newest manpower and fiscal challenges.
Preston retired March 1, 2011, as the 13th sergeant major of the Army. Throughout his 35-year career, he served in every enlisted leadership position from cavalry scout and tank commander to his culminating position as sergeant major of the Army. Immediately prior to his appointment as sergeant major of the Army, he was the command sergeant major of Combined Joint Task Force 7 serving in Baghdad, Iraq.
Visit www.homesforourtroops.org for more information on Homes for Our Troops.