Saturday, October 06, 2007

Serving Randomness

La Professora is the daughter of a sailor who served his country well in the late '40s and early '50s. Equally, I have proudly taught a number of students in uniform. It was with no little aggrievement that I felt when reading the news today that 1,162 of the 2,600 Minnesota National Guard -- the longest serving ground combat unit in Iraq -- will be denied full education benefits because their posting was one day short of the necessary 730 days. Twenty-two months these soldiers have been serving their country, and someone screwed with their orders to save money.

Representative John Kline, of Minnesota, has introduced a bill to get those soldiers' their benefits. There's a good reason for the effort: the difference between partial and full education benefits is significant. Full benefits pay $800 per month, while partial benefits provide only $282. Because these soldiers served one day less than the full 730 days needed, they lose out on $518 per month. Being that a semester is about 3 months long, that works out to $1554 lost per semester.

These soldiers put their life on hold and then put it in jeopardy, yet the Pentagon cannot see clear to give them the education benefits they so rightly deserve. There is a pattern here, if only you were to look. On the health side, there were the scandal involving Walter Reed hospital, and the reports of veterans being poorly treated by the VA. Representative John Murtha, once a strong supporter of the war in Iraq and a 37-year veteran of the Marine Corps, changed his position after meeting with injured veterans of the current conflict. There is plenty of money for the ongoing combat operations, but seems that there's little in the way of funding for care for the current 185,000 injured soldiers -- a number that is estimated to rise to 700,000. The battlefield has gone techno and so more are surviving, but only by leaving a physical part of themselves behind.

Not many remember that when combat operations started in 2003, President Bush threatened to veto any spending bill that would have made permanent a raise in combat pay. Seems that the government couldn't afford an extra $75 a month for people who were putting themselves at risk. Sorry, your mortal danger is only worth $150 per month in hazardous combat pay, not the $225 we thought we could afford. Oh, and if you die, your family should only get $6,000. Thankfully, the veto threat was very short lived and soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq get $225 per month in extra pay for putting their lives on the line, and should they die, the families will get $12,000 each to help cover some of their immediate needs.

There are some who say that the war in Iraq has kept the all volunteer military from recruiting enough soldiers. That is only partially the truth. The reality is that the pay is awful: tens of thousands of soldiers and their families are on food stamps. The average soldier in the U.S. gets roughly half of what a British soldier in the same pay grade would get. Sometimes the education benefit is the only real reason why some sign up -- they see it as a opportunity to serve their country and get funding for college.

When soldiers came back from Viet Nam, they were spit upon by U.S. citizens who saw them as the embodiment of the hated war itself. In the 30 years since then, the nation has learned to treat the war-battered soldier better than that. There are a number of cars with stickers saying "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home." As a nation, we now know that soldiers should be treated with respect and honored for their sacrifices. We know that it is only fair that, having served honorably for so long, those soldiers should have their rightful education benefits.

Too bad the current administration is too busy spitting on them.
Photo credit: ITN Archive as seen on


Anonymous said...

I bought one of those 'Support the Troops, Bring Them Home' from the States and put on my car when I lived in the UK. I also lived not that far from the Catterick barracks, where a good many UK soldiers were stationed. They could be very often spotted in convoys along the motorway, and every time I passed the military trucks, I would inevitably get flashing lights and thumbs up from these soldiers. They knew real support when they saw it as well. The Mouse

Anonymous said...

Please stop quoting right-wing
talking points - Returning Vietnam
soldiers were not spit upon by the
war protestors. It was a draft, for
God's sake, nobody spit on them. They were welcomed home. Find a source from that time
period that shows a pattern of
soldiers being spit on.

La Professora said...

I see that you're a member of the Jerry Lembcke fan club. While he wrote an interesting book on the subject, there are enough retired officers from that era who recount tales of being spat upon to believe that this "urban myth" started somewhere. It predates the _Rambo_ films, so it can't be from there. However, what is more important here is that Viet Nam veterans -- of whom my favorite brother-in-law was one, serving two tours in the Delta -- felt less than respected an honored when they returned from the war. This time around, citizens from both sides of the debate have agreed that they are worth of being respected and honored for their sacrifices -- why can't the government show that much?

Anonymous said...

While it may be true, that there are little to no news reports or other media documentation of the "Viet Nam vets being spat upon" phenomena, the fact is that none is required.

We have living, breathing, Viet Nam veterans among us today, who have told that this actually happened to them, personally. That's good enough for me.

La Professora said...

Seems that La Professora has an international fan base. The following was sent by an anonymous reader in Russia arguing that the US has an ulterior motive for being involved in air attacks in Libya: Oil.


Если вы интересуетесь немного политикой, то должны были заметить - эти неожиданные волнения в странах Африки
возникли неспроста.

Есть 2 версии этих событий - "официальная" и "неофициальная", и обе версии скорее уводят в сторону от реальных фактов.
Версия 1: Каддафи - тиран и самодержец, стрелял в мирных граждан, поэтому его надо бы убрать.
Версия 2: на самом деле Европе с Америкой захотелось немного Ливийской нефти, и они решили навести небольшой "дебош"

Рассмотрим версию 1.
Да, Каддафи уже тот ещё старик, ему конечно пора бы и на пенсию. Но известно ли вам, что конкретно в Ливии народ имеет весьма высокие преференции при его правлении? Учителя получают под $3.000, выплаты безработным порядка $1000 и так далее. Да, он стал укрощать группки взбунтовавшихся бедуинов, но кто-нибудь понимает реальные причины этих бунтов?
Эта версия не выдерживает никакой критики.

Версия 2.
Нефть Ливии? Да, она отличается высоким качеством, Ливийская нефть очень чистая. Но её там не так много.
Да и к тому же, зачем тогда будоражить Египет и прочие африканские государства, которые весь прошлый год вообще никого не тревожили и не волновали?! А тут вдруг - "тираны", "изверги" и т.п.

Да, эта ситуация дополнительно подогрела цены на нефть. Отдельным корпорациям это выгодно.

Но истина короче.
Каддафи не так давно начал объединять ближневосточные страны под идеей перейти на расчёт за нефть и товары НЕ долларами, НЕ евро, а альтернативой всему этому. И Египет - одна из стран, которая это поддержала...

Однако в популярных СМИ это никогда не скажут.

P.S. У Саддама Хусейна, кстати, тоже были такие начинания. Вообще, после кризиса ооочень многие страны стали задумываться об ИЗБАВЛЕНИИ ОТ ЗАВИСИМОСТИ ОТ ДОЛЛАРА. Рано или поздно это произойдёт. ФРС уже некуда понижать ставки.

Кстати, это тоже по теме: Военная операция Запада в Ливии, Ливийская, Великобритания отчиталась об уничтожении ливийских ВВС, цели, Франция перенесла вторжение в Ливию на сутки, число, Великобритания примет участие в военной операции в Ливии, планы