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Army head who could be next chairman talks to grieving military kids

By Charley Keyes, Senior National Security Producer
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey meets with kids who have lost a relative in military service.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey meets with kids who have lost a relative in military service.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gen. Martin Dempsey could be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • He meets with a group of children, all of whom have lost family members in war-time military service
  • Dempsey sings songs and answers questions
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Washington (CNN) -- U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey is doing his best to avoid reporters since word leaked that he is the president's top choice to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But there was no way he was going to duck questions from this group on Friday so he charged right into a roomful of children, all of whom have lost fathers, and mothers and other relatives in war-time military service.

The general shucked off his uniform coat, tuned up his singing voice for a rendition of his signature song from Frank Sinatra, who was also known as the chairman of the board, and gave them a few lines.

"Start spreading the news," he sang.

The Dempsey show was on.

He had an aide come out and hold the microphone while he did hand motions and sang "The Unicorn" song -- "Well there were green alligators, and long neck geese, some humped back camels and some chimpanzees ..."

The questions and answers were also a hit.

"I do have my own airplane and that's pretty cool," said Dempsey.

"Four stars is pretty cool man," he said. "Second Lieutenant was good too."

"What's it like controlling so many soldiers?" one child asked.

"All we really have to do is give them the training ... and turn 'em loose," he answered.

Easy-going laughs erupted, but not always. If he indeed gets the nomination for the Joint Chiefs chairman post, Dempsey would be the senior ranking member of the armed forces. He would be the one who takes the drive across the Potomac River to meet with the president, carrying the advice of everyone in uniform to the commander in chief.

But in some ways, facing this room may have seemed tougher than the Oval Office.

This was a crowd brought together for Memorial Day weekend just outside Washington by TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an organization that helps military kids as young as 4 cope with loss and grief.

"That is such a good question, and the question was, how do you keep people from dying," Dempsey said, repeating what had been too soft to hear.

"Sometimes we can't, (keep them from dying)," he told his young audience. "Because when you grow up and you're going to have to fight someone -- I think they answer is we try to get them ready as best we can, because sometimes God actually has another plan," Dempsey said.

Before saying goodbye to the children, he led a rendition of "The Army Song." Soldiers in the crowd, some wearing T-shirts that read "Mentor," rose to their feet. The crowd belted out the lyrics.

"First to fight for the right, and to build the nation's might. The Army Goes Rolling Along," the group sung.

 
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