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Petraeus apologizes for affair, urges more help for returning veterans

Former CIA Director David Petraeus on Tuesday apologized for the affair that cost him his job, as he re-entered the public spotlight and promoted efforts to aid the nation’s veterans.

“I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago,” Petraeus said in a speech to veterans at the University of Southern California, his first public address since the scandal.

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“Please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters,” he continued.

Petraeus stepped down from his post atop the nation’s intelligence community in November, after an FBI investigation discovered an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.

The former director acknowledged “the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me,” but also sought to move past the scandal in his comments, focusing his attention on aiding veterans transitioning to civilian life. 

Petraeus, who prior to joining the CIA commanded U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the transition is often “quite challenging” for service members returning from combat. 

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Wednesday, Petraeus pressed for employment and retraining programs to help veterans find rewarding work after leaving the service.

He wrote that, in addition to the high unemployment rate for veterans, many were also trapped in jobs that failed to fully acknowledge their skills.

“Upon leaving the service, many veterans confront the complexities of the civilian world with a sense that they start out behind in the game,” wrote Petraeus. “They run a substantial risk of being underemployed or in dead-end jobs.

“Former servicemembers who led large-scale endeavors in combat, supervising dozens or even hundreds of soldiers in the most demanding of missions, can thus find themselves stuck at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Many end up working solitary jobs as security guards, in call centers or with delivery companies,” he added. “These veterans may no longer be considered unemployed for statistical purposes, but they are not able to realize their full potential. They know they can do better but don't know how to do so.”

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Petraeus called on business groups to “go further, by providing training and education, career guidance, networking opportunities and mentoring.” And he in particular encouraged entrepreneurs to take steps to help veterans launch their own small businesses.

“The former members of our armed forces have done their part to ensure America's national security, often sacrificing greatly in the process,” wrote Petraeus. “Now it is our turn to do our part to help them build promising futures for themselves and their families.”