Below is a letter that I recently wrote to my state congressional representatives:
July 27, 2011
To: Vermont Congressional Delegation
Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Peter Welch
I am writing as a retired member of the United States armed forces with great concern regarding a recent plan announced by the Department of Defense to change the existing retirement plan of US service members in order to reduce military costs. This plan was reported in the Stars and Stripes, Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Army Times as “a radical overhaul to the current retirement system”.
Please understand clearly that I am not writing in protest of this plan for personal reasons. At this point, my earned retirement benefits will not be affected. As a member of the United States military veteran community, I am held by the bonds of brotherhood to stand tall in advocacy for those who are currently serving and who will consequently be the unfortunate bearers of this absurd revision of policy. And, who will accept even further sacrifice under their creed of service with no protest, no controversy, no violence, and no threatened work stoppage as their civilian counterparts abhorrently exhibited in Wisconsin.
We all understand the gravity of the trying economic times we are all experiencing, and, for the most part we all can agree that sacrifices must be made in order to rectify our financial shortcomings. However, do you not think that our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors are already doing their fair share in service alone? Not to mention that these fine citizens only represent approximately 1% of the country’s population and already are willing to protect the freedoms of not only the United States but those around the world for much less than a fair wage and benefits.
For example, there is a young solider from Vermont currently serving in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division. He pulls duty in a tower of a Combat Operations Base in a remote area of the country and is the frontline of defense by guarding his comrades from enemy attack, mortar fire, and snipers. He is 20 years old, and despite the danger, is strongly considering re-enlistment. Based on his rank and time in service, he earns a base pay of $1,838.70 monthly (that’s $22,064.40 annually). It is safe to say that he does not serve his country for the pay. Under the new retirement policy, this soldier will automatically forfeit 16.5% of his base pay to a corporate 401k modeled retirement fund, in which he will not be able to access until he is age 59 ½ despite his overall time in service. This not only eliminates this soldier’s incentive to serve in the Army for a twenty year career but gives him less money to survive on while serving. Here’s a quick fact to ponder: According to a financial watchdog organization, it costs the citizens of America $20,187 per week to support each member of Congress. After, the new military retirement policy is adopted, that will be $1,764 more than this soldier will make each year!
I realize that all of you are trying to concentrate your efforts on ways that will help bring resolution to our country’s financial dilemma; that will be comprehensive and fair to all Americans. However, I feel that reducing the incentives and salaries of our service men and women is less than fair.
Isn’t it enough that our returning combat veterans receive less than adequate healthcare? Isn’t it enough that on any given night there are 107,000 homeless military veterans sleeping on the streets of America? Isn’t it enough that over 1,600 Army and Marine Corps personnel attempted suicide this past year? Isn’t it enough that our military families must endure long durations of separation and a divorce rate that exceeds the national percentage? It is obvious to me that America has a long way to go before it can say it is providing its service members fair and deserving compensation, but to help bankroll the pork-ridden budget of this nation on the shoulders of those who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice is nothing less than shameful and despicable.
In closing, I urge you to be even more outspoken in support of our military service men and women, to appeal the new military retirement policy, and to find other innovative ways in which our financial challenges can justly be resolved with absolute fairness.
Also, please know that I am not leaving this burden entirely upon you as my representatives, that, I am willing to be as much a part of the solution as I am willing to protest the problem. I am willing to join you in any way that will help make the meaning of this message clear to those who need to hear it or wish to ignore it.
I have served this great nation of ours as a member of the Active Duty, Reserves, and Army National Guard. For more than 23 years, I stood at the ready for a call to duty which was epitomized in the brutal streets of Ramadi, Iraq in 2005 to 2006. My family and I have made great sacrifices for this country without one ounce of regret. I continue to selflessly serve my community in several ways. It is now a part of my personal being, and, I will always be prepared to stand proudly and firmly for what is truly right about America. As my representatives, I expect nothing less from you.
Thank you for your time and genuine consideration.
William F Edson, SFC
United States Army (Retired)
A wonderful letter of "Good Heart and Mind". Well written. I hope this communication touches at least some in the Vermont State Congress. Well done William F. Edson
I don't understand why the so called representatives don't see that they are undermining their own validity with the Men and Women of Our Armed forces by cutting their "earnings" and benefits. Not a good way to cultivate a potentially needed alliance.
We The People need to reach out to the Homeless Veterans. Find them and give them food and stuff. Maybe even give them a place in their home. Though I imagine some of these veterans might be too dangerous to trust like that.
At the very least, places should be provided for these Homeless Veterans. Maybe something like Veterans Barracks with a military "flavor" and being with others of similar war experience. Maybe that would feel more like "Home" to some Veterans?