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Posted at 06:32 PM on Thursday, December 20, 2007 by post7704(Via VA Press Release and Whitehouse.gov)
WASHINGTON (December 20, 2007) - In a ceremony today Dr. James B. Peake,
a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and former Army Surgeon General, was
sworn in by President George W. Bush as the nation's sixth Secretary of
"Dr. Peake takes office at a critical moment in the history of this
Department," said President Bush. "Our nation is at war - and many new
veterans are leaving the battlefield and entering the VA system. This
system provides our veterans with the finest care - but the bureaucracy
can be difficult to navigate."
Secretary Peake stressed his commitment to easing the transition of our
current generation of returning, combat experienced men and women and of
"the opportunity to look to the future of this newest generation of
combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - getting it right
for them and for their families."
Peake, who retired in 2004 as a three-star general, is a board-certified
thoracic surgeon. His commands included the U.S. Army Medical Command,
headquartered at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas; Madigan Army Medical Center in
Tacoma, Wash.; the 44th Medical Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C.; and the
18th Medical Command in Seoul, South Korea.
Secretary Peake told those assembled, "You need to know that I believe
deeply in the mission; and that I believe in you. I know quite a number
of you already. I've seen the ethic, the caring, the compassion, and
the technical skills."
A native of St. Louis and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point, Peake attended medical school after serving in Vietnam, where he
earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
As Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Peake assumes leadership of the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the second largest cabinet
department, with about 250,000 employees and a budget last year
exceeding $82 billion.
More than 5.5 million veterans are expected to receive care this year in
VA's 153 hospitals and 900 clinics. VA also provides disability
compensation and pensions to 3.5 million veterans and family members,
and operates 125 national cemeteries.
Video of the ceremony: