Monday, February 11, 2013

To serve with honor and retire with nothing

Esquire posts a long story on the man who shot Osama bin Laden. It goes into great detail on the mission that ended with bin Laden's demise that will surely fascinate fans of war porn. For myself, the big takeaway is his disgraceful treatment in retirement by our government.

The man served valiantly for sixteen years at no small risk to his own life. The stress of his deployments ruined his marriage. He killed America's number one enemy, face to face. And then he burned out. He didn't want to roll the dice for another four years and choose to get out while he still has a chance to see his kids grow up. Maybe live to see grandkids. And so, he gets exactly zero benefits. No pension. No health insurance. No employment assistance. Indeed, he can't even use his military experience to get a job because his work remains under the top levels of secrecy.

Meanwhile, he and his family, not unreasonably, live in fear for their lives. Any moment some revenge seeking maniac could target them in retaliation for bringing down the father of al Qaeda. The government's only possible assistance is some vague notion they could put them in a quasi-witness protection program. In which case they would lose everything. All contact with their extended family and friends. All their worldly goods. And realistically would still be living in fear of having their true identities discovered.

Hell, our useless politicians at every level of government who face nothing more dangerous than elevated cholesterol from too many fancy dinners with lobbyists, get a much better deal than that for far less years of service. But these are the military rules and regulations.

Furthermore, it's not just the elite troops that get shortchanged. So many whose careers are less dramatic but serve our country no less honorably end up without proper care. An "Urban Institute study found that those requirements leave 1.3 million veterans without health care benefits, alongside 0.9 million members of their families."

It's not just disgraceful, it's immoral. Honoring the troops by such gestures as applauding them in airports is little more than a cruel joke if we don't take care of them when they come home.

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