Is This Any Way To Remember Our Troops?


Posted: May 25, 2007

A MEMORIAL DAY during wartime is an especially rich opportunity to honor - and reflect on - the people in the military whom we ask to sacrifice so much.

But President Bush's veto threat on a new House military-spending bill does neither.

In a veto threat issued just over a week ago to the National Defense Authorization Act (a fancy name for defense spending legislation), the White House cited two issues that would bring out the president's veto stamp.

The first is a 3.5 percent increase in military pay that Democrats in Congress inserted into the bill - the president had requested 3 percent.

The Democrats also inserted an increase in death benefits paid out to survivors of the fallen, by $40 a month.

There may be good reasons to veto the bill, but those two issues shouldn't be among them.

The word "offensive" doesn't even begin to describe the notion from the White House that more money for troops and their families is so objectionable as to poison an entire spending bill. If anything, we should be increasing military pay and benefits more.

In case the White House hasn't noticed, the military is already having a hard time recruiting people, and keeping people in beyond their contract.

And while the Department of Defense has lowered recruiting and retention goals so it can meet them, that hasn't kept the department from lowering standards so it can meet those low goals.

According to an Associated Press report last year, thousands of new recruits were let in with disturbingly low aptitude test scores - many more than the military previously accepted. Additionally, the military has ordered battalion commanders to retain new recruits who are alcoholics, drug abusers, not physically fit, or pregnant.

Not wanting to go to war may be a strong reason that many of our best and brightest aren't signing up, but pay also may be an issue. Most enlisted personnel who are fairly new to the military are looking at pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000.

The $40 a month that the president thinks is too steep to pay widows and widowers who lose their spouse in war may seem like nothing to the country-club set that the president hangs out with, but it means a lot to those who lose a loved one in war. That money adds up to $480 a year, which can help pay expenses for kids, food bills and even for medicine.

WE HOPE THAT THE veto message was written by bureaucrats and somehow got by the president.

Surely George W. Bush doesn't want to be remembered, on future Memorial Days, as the leader who had no problem sending men and women off to war, and possibly to their death, but refused to take care of them and their families. *

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