... Promise them anything ...
we can cancel later!
In the early stages of World War II, men lined up to volunteer to serve their country during the war. All kinds of things were promised:
1. Guaranteed pay ($21.00 a month on enlistment. Insurance, $10,000, which nearly everyone bought, cost me $6.40 a month leaving $14.60 to live on.)
2. Clothing, food, travel.
3. Retirement income after 20 years service.
4. Free medical and dental care for life after retirement.
5. Lifetime use of the Navy/Army/AirForce exchange facilities. And other things I cannot think of at this time.
After the war many took discharges. Had the chance to continue their education, partially funded by the government. Many did attend college, and prospered. Some became Senators and powerful voices in our government.
Others decided to make the military their career. Why? Some liked the job they were doing; it was a job too. Some had marital problems, financial problems. There were a multitude of reasons each of us justified to ourselves for staying in the service.
My reason for staying? I liked my job as a radioman; liked to travel and knew I would retire someday. I wanted the guaranteed lifetime income, free medical/dental services. This was the main selling point used by reenlistment personnel when your enlistment was up, particularly when you had a couple of hitches under your belt. There were lots of men like me.
When single you manage to get along on your pay. You have a place to sleep, three meals a day, and travel. That was good. But ... and few civilians can understand this, but we were on call 24 hours a day. You trained constantly, and you were at sea more than ashore. That comes with being in the military. It is understood.
When/if you get married, life gets much harder. If you are on a ship, you are at sea more than ashore. You make trips overseas for six-month tours. The wife and kids, if any, remain whereever your home port may be. That is, if you were lucky enough to find a place to live that you could afford. If not, they stayed with her parents. They struggle to just get along. The pay was not the best in the world then and still isn't. You lived in any dump you could find. Rent took a big portion of your pay, which leaves very little for your family to live on. Somehow the wives manage to get by. Be mother and father to your children while your ship is in Europe, the far east or on training exercises.
Yes, there were hardships. We learned to live with them. You learned to move every couple of years when you got transferred. We accepted whatever the services required. But, we knew we would be taken care of when it came time to retire.
For years our elected representatives, many having served in one branch of the service or another during the war, remembered some of the hardships they experienced. No effort was taken by them to cut or eliminate various benefits.
Today, few representatives have had any military service. They grew up living the good life. Enjoying what many gave their lives for to ensure our liberties. Gradually they have changed the rules. The benefits we retirees used to take for granted are being eliminated piece by piece. We lost our cost of living increases for a couple of years. By we, I mean the military retirees. The Civil Service continued to get their's. Then we lost our full medical coverage, then all dental care was eliminated.
No telling what the present elected officials will come up with, but I am sure there will be additional changes. I have not seen the present listing of our elected officials and do not know how many have had any military service. It is too bad they dont have to serve, if only for a couple of years, to find out how demanding military life is. Realize that every penny the retirees receive has been earned.
Regularly the news services report on the shortage of qualified personnel in the services. It is understandable. Why be on call 24 hours a day, make less than your civilian counterpart, unless you can get the best training in the world, serve your time, and get a civilian job paying three or four times what can be earned in the military. Also, as civilians, you put in your eight-hour days, and then go home. The military still has overseas tours, detached from family, but dedicated to protecting all of us ... even the representatives who are reducing our earned benefits gradually.
With all the trouble spots around the world, someone has to protect us all. Those on active duty give their all ... even their lives. It is a damn shame that the younger generation finds fault with what was accomplished when our country needed help.
Too many retirees feel like they have been let down, which they have. Most of those I know personally discourage youngsters from joining any military service. In the long run they can make more money, have a decent life, enjoy their family, and be with their children as they grow up. You cannot do that in the service.
Yes, we volunteered. We served proudly. We were forgotten when the dangers we faced no longer existed ... Korea, Vietnam, brushfires around the world and recently Yugoslavia and some Africian countries. I am in favor of the these actions. In fact, it should have started much sooner. Another Hitler, killing their own people, and everyone sits back and does nothing. Too late the UN, NATO countries and our government decided to do something. Men will die for their country. They give their all, suffer all the hardships, and expect to be taken care of if they survive. Unfortunately they are soon forgotten when things are peaceful again.
I hope we never have to go through another World War but those in power must take steps to revise their thinking so qualified personnel are manning our defenses, and make sure the benefits each and every person earned are guaranteed for life.
A move is under foot by both houses to restore these benefits. Three bills are now awaiting action. S2003, HR2966 and 3573. Maybe after all these years OUR government will live up to its promises.
After I started writing this I received an e-mail telling of how one Senator feels about the military. It can be viewed at A Real Job
Hopefully all of our representatives do not feel this way about the military and the men who are assuring their good life continues.
Bob Ross, RMCS-USN, Retired
November 3, 2000