A retired U.S. Army brigadier general and psychiatrist will serve as New York City's new commissioner of veterans' affairs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.
Loree Sutton is among the last of de Blasio's major administration appointments, nearly eight months into his term as mayor. She is a mental health and brain injuries specialist who served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt during the first Gulf War.
De Blasio, at a City Hall news conference, said veterans' affairs is primarily the jurisdiction of the federal government, but the city has a "responsibility" to help veterans facing unemployment, homelessness and mental health struggles.
Sutton, 55, of Brooklyn, said she would strengthen the relationships among public and private veterans organizations.
"While many veterans are thriving, many are also struggling," she said.
Soldiers often return from war with the mentality, "Once I am a warrior and veteran, I am always a warrior and veteran," and their commitment to service should be leveraged positively, Sutton said.
She begins in her post Sept. 2, replacing Terrance Holliday, and will receive a salary of $192,198.
De Blasio called veterans' post-combat issues "something very personal," referencing his father, Warren Wilhelm Sr., a World War II veteran who lost a leg in the battle at Okinawa. Wilhelm returned to the United States with physical and mental scars, de Blasio said. He ultimately committed suicide in 1979, when de Blasio was 18.
His father's experiences affected his whole family, de Blasio said, emphasizing the need for the Mayor's Office of Veterans' Affairs to also provide support for veterans' loved ones.