CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On Tuesday, Dilworth s most internationally famous neighbor gave her first public speech since the scandal broke that thrust her and her family into the spotlight.

Paula Broadwell gave an impassioned plea to members of the Rotary Club of Charlotte to help veterans transitioning into civilian life.

Charlotte, in fact, is the number one place for transitioning veterans to move and retire, according to the V.A., she told the crowd at the Charlotte Plaza Hotel Uptown.

Before an affair with the C.I.A. that made world headlines last year, Broadwell was a respected author and scholar on military affairs. She said Charlotte s been integral part of the healing process for her and her family.

Charlotte's been fantastic. I love our neighbors, she told reporters afterwards.

Broadwell says her lessons over the past year are valuable, even to those veterans she works everyday to help. Veterans in the audience who know Broadwell praised her generosity.

I think overcoming and being able to move forward is definitely something that we share in common. She's kinda like a big sister to me, and I m very grateful, said Dr. Tara Dixon, who came back from Iraq and tried to commit suicide after suffering P.T.S.D.

Broadwell helped connect Dixon with local groups that help veterans.

First you've got to heal yourself. And then you take care of your family. But the only way to rebuild is through your community.

Broadwell says Charlotte s community is already leading the country in private-partnerships that help support veterans, but she says more can be done.

The number one issue we need to deal with is mental healthcare. And the V.A. just can't meet the need of transitioning soldiers, she said.

Broadwell cited teleconferencing with therapists and sports therapy as important, but often overlooked aides. She said she s even interested in attracting the Warrior Games, a paralympics competition for service members and veterans, to Charlotte.

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