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Troops need support through actions, not words

The military is demanding wounded veterans return part of their signing bonuses because they “are unable to serve out their commitments,” according to a report by KDKA, a Pittsburgh affiliate of CBS.

Jordan Fox is one soldier the military has demanded returned bonus money.

Fox was injured when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle. The attack knocked him unconscious and injured his back. He lost vision in his right eye. Fox was three months short of ending his commitment to the Army at the time.

A letter arrived at Fox’ home demanding the return of $3,000 of his $10,000 signing bonus.

“I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they’re telling me they want their money back,” Fox said to KDKA.

One of the military’s most enticing offers to new recruits is a signing bonus, which can reach up to $30,000. It is a huge incentive to join the military for those in financial strain who might desperately need this kind of money.

What can one call when the military puts soldiers in harm’s way and then asks for some of that money back when they get hurt? I call it robbery – but it is not just robbing wounded soldiers of money, it’s robbing them of their dignity.

Soldiers put into harm’s way by an incompetent government would probably not otherwise be in the situations if not by the choices of politicians and Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It seems ironic that decisionmakers who claim to have a monopoly on support for the troops have allowed this to happen. Despite all the rhetoric, they don’t see what the war is doing to families and they don’t experience the loss. If they cared, they’d end the war, or they’d at least be sure that all soldiers receive full benefits and aren’t asked for more than the sacrifice that they have already made – particularly among the wounded.

Wounded veterans have a lifetime of pain, medications, and haunting memories. The least the government could do is ensure that what benefits the wounded have earned and are promised aren’t taken back. That this war is still going on at all is testament enough to the fact that they don’t support the troops, but this policy of asking for part of a signing bonus back makes it painfully clear that politicians and commanders think in terms of capital costs, not human costs when it comes to budgeting for wars.

It is up to the American people to end the war and ensure that all soldiers receive what they were promised. For the military to demand portions of signing bonuses be paid back sends a message that soldiers’ sacrifice means nothing and that time they spent away from children, family and friends, is somehow a less-honorable sacrifice because their tour was cut short by injury. This demand wrongfully strips them of their dignity and suggests that they had somehow lied when they signed their life into the hands of a group of people that does not need to answer to the will of the people, but to corporate interests and lobbying powers.

If there is any group of people that is traitorous to the troops and to the American people, it isn’t those who protest the war. It is those members of government who have used lies to manipulate policy to adhere to the goals of the highest bidder.

Those serving money – the private contractors – see a lot more financial support than those serving the country.

As reported on Alternet.org in August 2007, a private contractor employee in Iraq can make between $650 to $1000 a day – a salary many times larger than that given to the troops. Some members of Congress make the claim that “up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors.”

So, despite the ‘support the troops’ lip service, it is clear that the government’s loyalties don’t lie with the will of the people – the majority that disapproves of this war – and not with the best interests of the soldiers, those who have the most to lose.

Jose Ferrer is a sophomore majoring in sociology.