This is how the Pentagon thanks those wounded in combat.
Jordan Fox, an Army sniper from Mount Lebanon, PA, who was partially blinded by an IED while on patrol in Iraq, was notified by the Pentagon that he would have to repay $2,800 of his $10,000 enlistment bonus, since he was no longer able to complete his service obligation. When called on the carpet for this nonsense by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Army officials said it was an isolated "clerical error" and canceled the debt. Good enough, right? Everybody makes mistakes.
If Fox's case was an "isolated incident, there has been no explanation of why hundreds of other wounded veterans have also received letters demanding repayment, Schumer said. "When you talk to the Pentagon, you get different answers from different people."
Different answers from different people? At the Pentagon? No, say it ain't so.
Democratic front-runner and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a 'Strongly Worded Letter' to the Secretary of the Army, requesting reversal of the repayment policy.
A strongly worded letter? Big. Fat. Hairy. Deal.
Unless Clinton comes out on top as the person who will clearly be our next President, the Secretary of the Army isn't likely to listen to a damned thing she has to say. What we need here are three things.
1) An Executive Order from the White House, directing all armed services to fulfill their obligations to those disabled in the performance of their duties while in the combat zone. Period. No loop holes. No bullshit. No more nonsense. Pay, and pay now. The White House sent us to Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House authorized the Military to offer incentive pay for enlistment. The President stood up on Veteran's Day and talked about 'our fallen heroes.' The son of a bitch better start living up to his words (yeah, I'm holding my breath here, you bet).
2) A permanent law. Congress needs to fix this immediately. And it's simple and easy to do. The Act doesn't need to be more than one page long. No riders. No loop holes. No partisan bullshit. No more nonsense. Those disabled in the combat zone, and unable to complete their military obligation, will be promptly paid what they were promised by the government who sent them into the meat grinder. Any military member killed in combat will have the remainder of their bonus immediately paid to their survivors. Any disabled service member who has already been forced to repay bonuses, will have those bonus immediately repaid plus 50% interest. Period. It shouldn't take more than an hour to draft the legislation, and it shouldn't take more than a week to get the vote in both chambers of Congress. And it sure as hell ought to be unanimously approved. Fuck the President and his veto, send his ass into combat if he doesn't like it, it's about time that spoiled rich little coward started leading from the front.
3) Fire the Secretary of the Army, publicly and immediately, for cause. That cause being actions which have brought discredit and dishonor to the Service. No retirement. No pension. Fuck Pete Geren, I hope the lying bastard ends up living in box under a freeway overpass. And while we're at it, fire any Pentagon disbursing officer who approved letters demanding repayment from wounded vets. Send a clear and unequivocal message to the Pentagon that this bullshit will not be tolerated. Send a message that any officer who places bureaucracy above honor, who places bean-counting above the welfare of those who have risked their lives in combat, who is unable or unwilling to place his own ass on the line to do what is right, will be immediately cashiered. Period. And don't try to tell me that these officers were just following procedure, that's my point exactly. When procedure takes precedence over honor, then that person is clearly lacking in the single most fundamental qualification for being an officer in the first place. And the proof is in the pudding, they were able to waive Specialist Fox's obligation when they were forced to, weren't they? It can be done, they just care more about their precious spreadsheets than about people.
Americans need to stand the hell up and demand that this situation be put right. Now, not later, not in 2009, but now. This President, this Congress, these rich smug bastards who send us into harm's way need to be held accountable. But like I said above, I'm not holding my breath. Congress will spend ten times more money investigating the situation and making speeches on both sides of the isle, on drawing this out so that both sides can make it into a campaign issue, than we would if we just paid the damned bonuses in full right now.
Gah. I need to go out to the woodshop for a bit and cool down, before I draft the letters that will be going to both my Senators and my Representative.
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