Cory Remsburg received the longest standing ovation ever in the history of the State of the Union. Obviously Congress and the President honor our veterans, at least when they stand before the American People at the State of the Union.
And then when it comes time to pass legislation to help veterans, they kick that can down the road.
I'm tired of Yellow Ribbon moments. So are other military families.
So what are we doing about it?
We are attempting to call attention to a new battle that has begun. It has nothing to do with Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran but with our elected officials. You see, the age of austerity isn't only hitting places like Detroit. You already see the warning signs - the unemployment benefits that don't get renewed, the fight for a living minimum wage that goes no where, the cuts to food stamps in the upcoming farm bill. The warning signs are everywhere. And that includes the military community.
Most of you know that Congress chose to reduce COLA raises on military retiree pay back in December. You may have heard that commissaries will be closing across the United States. You may have heard that military retirees will once again be asked to pay more for their health insurance. In the back halls of the Pentagon, generals and hired business executives are manipulating data to make it look as if the average military retiree is milking a system that can no longer afford to pay a decent pension.
I've spent years listening to veterans from past wars tell us how they've had to fight for every little thing our government has given them. And I've often thought how wrong it is that the fight even has to take place. Why can't our government give our veterans what they've earned without further battles?
What is so harmful about today's fight for pension benefits is that the battle isn't only against veterans who have finished their time in service. It's a fight to take away benefits to those that are still serving and are limited in their ability to be outspoken in a political arena. It's a fight against people who cannot defend themselves. Unfair and unjust, like many other fights that Congress picks.
Last night, at the State of the Union, military families were hoping to hear our Commander-in-Chief spare us more worry. We are grateful that the war in Afghanistan will be over but we know that people will still deploy. We understand that the backlog at the VA needs to be addressed and were thankful for that brief mention. But what we wanted to hear the most is that the President has our back, that he will support any legislation restoring pension cuts, that he won't support legislation that hits the heart of the people serving the military. But instead, we heard that he'll make sure troops have the equipment they need to fight further wars. Equipment. Because that is truly what the military is about, isn't it? It's about the toys and the gadgets and the machines and new robots that the Army hopes to have in the field by 2030.
Our future military will either be composed of machines that fight without thought or of single soldiers that dare not marry nor have children.
We military families can take a lot; we are strong and we've been strong for the last 12 years, through 2 wars, untold deployments, and moves that never seem to end. But when Congress starts to chip away at the earned benefits of our service members in ways that erode the morale of not only the fighting force but of the families that keep them strong... well, then I for one say manage without us.
And Mr. President, the next time you feel the urge to honor a veteran on the national stage, remember that Yellow Ribbon moments can only go so far.