Here is my latest column in the North County Times:
A Cause Worth Carrying
This past weekend I was honored to be able to break bread with a great group of men and women who asked me to join them for their monthly gathering. All of them had either served in the military’s officer corps or were spouses of those who had.
Present were men like Clint, who fought against Rommel in North Africa, and Pat, who began his naval career preparing to invade Japan and ended it after serving in Vietnam. Others in the room had served in Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War.
In addition to their military service, they all shared a strong desire to help others, and despite the length of time since they had worn a uniform they continued to serve their country by advocating for active duty, veterans and retirees.
They are all members of the Military Officer’s Association of America, or MOAA. Originally called The Retired Officer’s Association or TROA, the organization was formed in 1929 as an advisory board of sorts for the active military, and with the exponential increase in the numbers of servicemen and women in World War II they shifted their focus to ensuring that those who wore the cloth of the nation were not forgotten. Now numbering more than 370,000, MOAA has become one of the most powerful and influential lobbying organizations in Washington.
Some of the services that they provide for all ranks, not just officers, include career transition assistance, benefits counseling, education assistance for children of military families, and engagement with Congress about issues that face active, retired and veterans of the armed forces.
Although you may not know it, MOAA has been actively engaging the government at all levels to ensure that the promises made to servicemen and women are honored.
MOAA fills a gap that cannot be filled by those in uniform. While actively serving, the members of the military must, by tradition and regulation, distance themselves from the political process. They are prohibited from using their status in uniform to influence the electorate or directly lobby governmental decision makers —- but organizations like MOAA have taken on the responsibility to ensure that their voices are heard. With the specter of sequestration and an austere fiscal future ahead for all branches of the government, it is particularly important for the needs of the armed forces to be heard —- and MOAA is front and center with Congress.
Some of the issues that the organization is currently addressing include the effect of new healthcare legislation on Tricare premiums (which would see an annual increase in premiums of 345 percent for many retirees), changes to the retirement system, the effects of military force reductions while the nation is still at war, and myriad other issues that directly impact serving members of the military, veterans, retirees, and their families.
MOAA is doing great work, but they are also facing an existential challenge: Their membership consists largely of older veterans who served 20, 30 or more years ago. As with all representatives of the Greatest Generation, they are literally passing on much faster than they are being replaced by younger veterans.
In the group I lunched with I the youngest attendee was half the age of the oldest veteran in the room. The rest of the group was in their 60, 70 and 80s. All are greatly concerned that the work that they have done and the important work that has yet to be accomplished will disappear if there are not new members of the organization to continue the fight.
They, and thousands like them, have selflessly given their all for their country and their fellow servicemembers. Many of the military and veterans benefits that we enjoy today are a direct result of MOAA’s efforts, so I am sounding the call for those eligible to join up and not let their efforts fade away.
If not MOAA, then find some other organization, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion. Join, help, and continue to serve. I have.