All of the troops sent to Iraq as part of the surge last summer were expected to leave by this July, but U.S. commanders, in order to assess the war, are asking for a ''pause'' in redeployments. Still, 3,500 of those surge soldiers will eventually leave the war zone. And when these men and women return stateside, as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have for five years, the situation they face will be much different from the one experienced by past generations of soldiers.
Americans in the World War II-era have been called the greatest generation. Today, politicians have called Iraq War soldiers the "new greatest generation." President George W. Bush, though he avoided service in the Vietnam War, even said he envied American soldiers their "romantic" combat experience today.
If these soldiers are the "new greatest generation," then they should be given the same opportunities as the soldiers who came before them in World War II.
Veterans of the second world war had the GI Bill, which completely subsidized a soldier's education. The government paid college tuition and fees, bought textbooks and provided a monthly stipend for 8 million of the 16 million who served in return for their sacrifice.
But as the U.S. military became a volunteer service and relative peace gave way, the GI Bill was reduced to the Montgomery GI Bill, which requires a service member to pay $100 a month for the first year of his or her enlistment in order to receive a flat payment for college that averages $800 a month. This meager stipend is not enough to cover even half of the costs associated with education at most state colleges.
Legislation has been introduced by Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to create a new GI Bill, but the Bush administration and even Sen. John McCain are against it because of the estimated $2.5 billion to $4 billion annual cost of the program.
What price do we put on the sacrifice of these men and women? We say support our troops, and this is one way we can.