When he enlisted, he was happy to hear about the enlistment bonus and the pledge by our government that they would pay for his college education in return for his two year commitment and postponing college until his discharge. Once he landed foot in the field, however, fate would change his outlook.
Dutifully, he served the military with distinction. He never made any waves or questioned the policy openly, though in his emails and letters to his family, you could read his disappointment. He didn't let that get in the way of being a loyal American soldier.
When he was finally discharged, he was informed that his enlistment bonus would be substantially less than stated in his contract. We all have to make our sacrifices during wartime, he was told. I guess him giving up family, friends, college and an extra year of his life, and fighting a questionable war wasn't sacrifice enough.
Still, he accepted it and returned to civilian life at least knowing that he could pursue his dream of going to college and not having to rely on his mother for the funds to pay his tuition, books and incidentals. Little did we know that this would all change this past weekend.
My nephew received a notice in the mail that the U.S. government won't be picking up the tab for his tuition as promised this semester and probably not for any other semester in the near future. "There is no more money," the letter pretty much said in clear language. Despite the promises and assurances that the government would be there for my nephew if my nephew was there for the government, his college dream is in jeopardy.
Our family will, of course, do whatever it takes to make sure my nephew will get his education. We are in the process of working to get enough money to cover not only his tuition, but his books, and other items he will need.
I had a very difficult conversation with my nephew over the weekend and I could hear the pain in his voice. He didn't say so, but he feels used and cheated. At one point, he asked if it was wrong to be so angry. I assured him it wasn't. I felt so sorry for him. Here is this bright, wonderful, loyal American patriot and warrior who felt bad about feeling bad by being lied to by his government.
I will forever be amazed at how the current administration just doesn't get it. I understand the concept of sacrifice (although I doubt Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have given up anything of substance). However, what message does it send to my nephew and to others when the government contract they sign isn't worth the paper it is written on? Why would any person ever believe what the military says in its contracts?
My nephew is still a loyal American and I, for one, am proud of him. But he is disillusioned.
How sad that our government has turned a 20-year-old man into a disillusioned patriot, trying to justify it all with words like "sacrifice" and "times of war" and "remember 9/11."
My nephew - who sacrificed so much to serve his country - deserves better.