By Michael Jacobson
In March 1991 unsettling photos of C-130 military cargo planes laden with flag draped coffins filled the news media.
We were in Afghanistan.
Prior to Desert Storm only active duty soldiers went to war. Assignments as to which troops will be sent had changed. It’s not that the Reserve personnel wouldn’t be able to perform their duties as well as active duty, but we trained and tested every day. National Guard were better equipped to handle local emergencies and disasters throughout the United States. Reservists were our back-up; they trained two days a month and two weeks during the year. National Guard and reservists were supposed to be just that, in reserve. Former president George W. Bush reset that cycle and put many of our soldiers at serious risk.
The public knew about Desert Storm in Saudi and the burning oil fields in Iraq, but Afghanistan? Seventeen years later, it is now the longest running war since Vietnam. The current commander-in-chief and his staff of generals are once again telling this nations people, “We are not going to tell our enemies when or where we will attack, but attack we will. We are going to increase the number our troops, but we’re not going to reveal how many.” All in the name of national security.
Returning home from the many battles of the Gulf War era, our wounded soldiers faced the same challenges their predecessors faced three decades ago. Our government summarily denied claims for physical ailments as well as a multitude of mental health issues. We were broken, we were to be forgotten. As long as our corporations could still get a good deal on a barrel of oil or have their clothing made by a foreign cheap slave labor force, it was business as usual for them.
Broken dreams and forgotten promises
The wounded warrior’s heart
Not by bullets – Not by war
Nor by bloody skirmishes
Untold spoils on foreign lands
Our nation’s blood runs deep
As corporations rise and fall
They ask us once again
For a wounded warrior’s
Starting in 1991 the military rifted thousands of active duty soldiers out of their retirements with reduction in force programs. Promotions were frozen preventing anyone from acquiring the next grade of rank needed to hold on through the cutbacks. Restrictions were imposed to prevent all who had taken an SSB, (special separation benefit) from returning to finish their remaining three to four years.
In 1995 those restrictions were lifted. Many had already moved on and never found out about. Other soldiers that had gotten the word no longer trusted a government that had forced them out to begin with. Yes, soldiers were given a choice of not taking a separation benefit. However, not being able to acquire the next grade of rank due to a frozen promotion system, many would still have been forced out with no severance pay. When you’re given two bad choices, which one do you opt for?
The hundreds of soldiers that did sign back up were deceived from the beginning, when they answered that battle call. Thinking that in a few years they would have a retirement, many didn’t find out until after signing on the dotted line, they’d have to wait until they were 60 before receiving a check. In addition, the government wanted the SSB (special separation benefit) paid back.
So, who are we to trust? A government that wants our call to duty only to find ways to leave us without a retirement — or the corporations that want cheap slave labor, and a large profit margin.
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