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Column: U.S. Sends Mixed Messages To Soldiers Over New GI Bill

This story was written by Vineet Tiruvadi, The Battalion

What a nice world it would be if fastening a flag to your lapel/car/lawn/ (insert preferred patriot-platform here) was demonstration enough of your support for the armed forces. It would make symbolic gestures of unity a lot more convenient with the added feature of saving some of our more self-interested politicians a few headaches. Instead of the hackneyed and, dare I say, almost-trivial presentations of gratitude offered every day to veterans, at little to no expense to ourselves, why don't we sacrifice that little something extra and offer one of the most powerful gifts of all: an education.

That Texas A&M holds military service in high esteem shouldn't come as a surprise to most of you. In addition, as a university, one would imagine we have a profound respect for the empowering nature of education. Whether you can feel it or not, these fleeting four years give you the foundation to live a pretty darn good life. What's a more sincere demonstration of respect than to offer veterans a second chance for the same?

It's not a new issue, which makes opposition to bills like Rep. Webb's Veteran's Education Bill absurd. Quizzically, our own John McCain and George Bush have taken the flimsy stance that this bill will give a lot of soldiers the chance to flee from the unfavorable role of defending the country that they, paradoxically, signed up to defend in the first place. Quite the mixed message when it comes to respecting the U.S. solider.

This new GI Bill, in a nutshell, seeks to provide benefits allowing veterans to attend the costliest in-state public university for four years. Facilitating the education process, as well as the assimilation into normal life, is a monthly stipend meant for textbooks, housing and miscellaneous expenses. The bill also gives veterans 15 years after their service to opt-in to the benefits with a minimum active duty requirement of three months. While the last little bit gives rise to most of the opposition it hardly seems fair, or supportive, to demand more of soldiers for the same rewards, as McCain has implied in his opposition.

As for the reasoning in favor of education as our most powerful tool please refer to "School House Rock" or your local children's television channel. It would be highly alarming to find anyone believing higher education would actually be detrimental to the veteran. Refusing to offer an education out of fears that soldiers will forsake their service does little more than show contempt and ignores the struggles of veterans.

This reeks of miscalculated politics, if not outright insincerity. For starters, it doesn't help McCain's stance as the champion of the armed forces. What possessed McCain to take such a self-destructive stance is beyond me. Additionally, transforming this relatively non-partisan bill into a political battleground does very few people any good and makes me personally disappointed in a so-far favorable McCain campaign.

Political leanings aside, this should be a non-issue, a no-brainer. As students of A&M, we should be especially in favor of this avenue of appreciation. Luckily, there's little doubt that this bill will be enacted, even with a presidential veto, but that does little to quell my doubts as to the mental stability and sincerity of not only our current leadership but also a potential one for the imminent future.

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