Sunday, May 04, 2008

I support the updated GI Bill.

Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette discusses the GI Bill for the 21st Century, sponsored by Virginia Senator Jim Webb, here and here. I commented:

I forget the exact quote that's commonly used to say this. Basically, how veterans are treated and rewarded for their selfless service has a direct bearing on how the American public (including potential young recruits) regards the military - more specifically, the actual prospect of joining the military. Moreover, the better that veterans are equipped to compete with their generational peers who haven't served, the more attractive military service will look in the long-term life planning of people considering military service. After all, a veteran may honorably serve 2 years, 4 years (as I did), 10 years or even 20 years, but he or she will be a veteran for the rest of his or her life and reside in the public for the rest of that life as a tangible product of the decision to serve. If the issue is cost/benefit analysis, how about the smart, experienced E4 or E5 who is considering re-enlistment, but doesn't plan to make a career of the military, and worries about his not-yet-started post-military career? What can convince him that a later start to that civilian career is affordable after all?

On the flip side, all the Army Strong ads in the world can't counter the 1st hand evidence of a recent veteran entering the competitive civilian marketplace who, while proud of his service, has received a 'raw deal' from the military and little to take away from his time in uniform beyond lost prime working years.

Finally, I'm a graduate of Columbia University and a founder of the US Military Veterans of Columbia University (or MilVets; see http://www.alumni.gs.columbia.edu/owlnet/Owl_Spring08_web.pdf to learn more about the group). After WW2, veterans flooded Columbia with the GI Bill. Today, Columbia still boasts the largest number of veterans in the Ivy League but it's nothing like what it was 60 years ago. Unfortunately, the current GI bill amounts to no more than petty cash; it hardly dents the Columbia tuition, which discourages most otherwise-qualified veterans from even applying. The question then is, in a competitive civilian world where an Honorable Discharge only goes so far, do we want our recent veterans reasonably financially equipped to consider degree programs like Columbia?

MilVets' current President is Luke Stalcup and an advocate for the updated GI Bill. Luke is a former Army SSG, EOD team leader, and OIF veteran. I recommend you look him up (try his Columbia e-mail or luke.stalcup@studentveterans.org); gather the input of a student-veteran leader who's in the thick of this debate.


Eric

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