If John Kerry and Chuck Hagel are confirmed, respectively, as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, by the U.S. Senate, President Barack Obama could begin his second term in the White House with three combat veterans in his cabinet.
Kerry and Hagel would join fellow Vietnam vet Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Each has received at least two Purple Hearts during their military service career.
Eric Shinseki, a retired, four-star general who served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1999-2003, assumed the office of Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Jan. 21, 2009, the day after Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.
He served two combat tours in Vietnam with the 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions as an artillery forward observerand as commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment. During one of those tours, he stepped on a land mine, which blew the front off one of his feet.
Among his many military awards, Shinseki received three Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, and two Army Commendation Medals during his military service from 1965 – 2003.
John Kerry served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1970. His last tour in Vietnam was four months as officer in charge of a Swift Boat in 1969. Kerry received several combat medals during this tour, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts.
According to his biography, when returned to the U.S. John Kerry spoke out against a policy he felt gave politicians political cover while soldiers bore the real burden. He also began a lifelong fight for his fellow veterans – joining with other vets to found the Vietnam Veterans of America to fight for veterans’ benefits, for extension of the G.I. Bill for Higher Education, and for treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
U.S. Army veteran Chuck Hagel served in the infantry from 1967 to 1968. Holding the rank of Sergeant (E-5), he served as an infantry squad leader in the 9th Infantry Division. Hagel served in the same infantry squad as his younger brother Tom, and they are believed to be the only American siblings to have done so during the Vietnam War.
While serving during the war, Hagel received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
He served as deputy administrator, U.S. Veterans Administration, 1981-1982