Memorial Day Weekend Profile: General Eric Shinseki

This is the last post in a three-part Memorial Day Weekend series honouring Asian American veterans.


General Eric Shinseki is a retired four-star General, who has served in the United States Army from 1965 – 2003, including tours in Europe and two tours served during the Vietnam War. While in Vietnam, Shinseki stepped on a land mine and lost part of his foot.

Upon returning to the U.S., Shinseki held a variety of command positions, ultimately being promoted to serve as the Army’s 28th Vice Chief of Staff in 1998. In 1999, Shinseki was again promoted, serving as the Army’s 34th Chief of Staff for four years before his retirement in 2003.

Why He’s Awesome?

General Shinseki holds the distinction of being the first Asian American to receive the rank of four-star general, and he is also the only Asian Ameican to ever serve as the Army Chief of Staff. He is the recipient of multiple military awards, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the nation’s highest peacetime award.

While Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki made national headlines when he publicly disagreed with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in testimony to the U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee over how many troops would be necessary to re-build Iraq after the Iraq War. Shinseki estimated that several hundred thousand troops would be needed, in contrast to the much lower estimates made by Rumsfeld and the Pentagon. Although heavily criticized by the Bush White House at the time, Shinseki’s testimony has since proven to be accurate.

In 2009, Shinseki was sworn into President Obama’s Cabinet as Secretary for Veteran Affairs, a position he currently holds.

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