The Drawdown Hits Home

Yesterday I had the great fortune to run into a Marine that I had the pleasure to work with while I was still on active duty.  The young sergeant, who had served honorably and faithfully for eight years and through three wartime deployments, shared with me that despite his overwhelming desire to stay in uniform and continue to serve the nation that he was being forced out of the Marine Corps.  Not because of anything he did – in fact just the opposite.  He was forced out because he loved what he was doing, but because of his success and the successes of countless thousands of others in uniform the need for so many Marines (and Soldiers and Sailors and Airmen) has diminished.  With the end of our active wars overseas comes the end of the need for the large military that had fought them, and with then of the need for so many uniformed military men and women comes the need to shrink the force.

That need is why such a talented, motivated, professional, and dedicated Marine NCO is being shown the door.  Along with thousands and thousands of professionals just like him.

Earlier in the week I attended an event in which LtGen John Toolan, the Commanding General of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, shared his personal dilemma in regards to the downsizing of the military.  His command, which has been on the absolute tip of the spear in Iraq and Afghanistan (having had elements ranging from platoons to divisions deployed to both theaters), is facing the practical realities of a contracting military.  He had over 4000 re-enlistment requests sitting on his desk (not really sitting there, but awaiting action from his headquarters) from Marines who want to continue to serve.

He only had the authority to approve 400 of them.

The effect of the reduction in forces is that one in ten Marines who want to stay in and continue to serve are able to do so.  The other nine are headed out the door to a future that does not include the career that they had anticipated.  Those nine are headed back into the society they served, and they will all need jobs once they arrive.

Josef Stalin once said that one death is a tragedy and one million is a statistic.  In the context of a career that is cut short by a shrinking military his words are strikingly relevant nearly a century after he uttered them.  One serviceman or servicewoman whose career is ended because of the vicissitudes of DOD force structure is indeed a tragedy because of the unfulfilled future to which they had dedicated their lives, but the tens of thousands who are being pushed out the door are just a statistic.

Edmund Burke also observed that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  If those of us who inhabit the society in which those in uniform will return simply look at the statistics and shrug them off, then we are guilty of failing each and every new veteran and allowing the evil of unemployment and underemployment to befall those who have ensured that our society remains free and unfettered by the shackles of tyranny.

So ask yourself: is the drawdown a cascade of individual tragedies that we can collectively help avert or a statistic that we will collectively ignore, or is there something we can do to make sure that the careers that they were not fulfilled in uniform can be created once they hang up the cloth of the nation?

 

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Military/Veteran Jobs and Benefits news of the day for for 4/25/14

Good news story of the day

Michelle Obama Announcing Jobs Website For Veterans  (The Huffington Post)  First lady Michelle Obama has announced a new online effort to link soldiers leaving the military with jobs that match their skill sets.

Military Transition and Jobs News

Mentor and Veteran Workshop: New Jersey  (Stars and Stripes)  Military personnel in transition from service and honorably discharged veterans are invited to apply for the opportunity to participate in this free one day seminar.

Veteran job fair planned May 6  (The Augusta Chronicle)  A job fair for veterans will be held May 6.

Veterans can get one-on-one job hunt advice at Huntsville career fair  (AL.com)  Putting veterans to work is the goal of an upcoming job fair.

Rising unemployment for veterans leaves many seeking work  (KIMATV)  More veterans in Yakima County are unemployed. Hundreds searched for work at a veterans’ job fair in Yakima Thursday.

Veterans News

Arizona VA boss accused of covering up veterans’ deaths linked to previous scandal  (Fox News)  A Veterans Affairs official accused of keeping double books to hide the fact that dozens of veterans died awaiting care previously ran a Washington state VA facility that allegedly fudged suicide numbers, FoxNews.com has learned.

VA looks to data for customer service solutions  (C4ISR&Networks)  The Department of Veterans Affairs long has struggled to meet customer needs, amassing an enduring backlog of claims benefits with which it continues to grapple.

NAVY VETERAN, 92, FINALLY GETS MILITARY MEDALS  (AP)  A 92-year-old military veteran has gotten long-overdue medals he earned for serving in the Navy during World War II.

40 U.S. veterans die while on Phoenix VA hospital’s cost-cutting secret wait list: report  (NY Daily News)  At least 40 U.S. veterans have died waiting for medical appointments at Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system — including many placed on a secret waiting list.

Benefits News

Congressional hearing in Tucson on veterans’ access to health care  (Tucson News Now)  Many veterans coming home from overseas are fighting new battles as they attempt to get VA system treatment for traumatic brain injury, or T-B-I and post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Local Veterans Frustrated with VA Benefits Backlog  (WSET)  Local veterans are frustrated with the backlog in disability benefits. They are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for the long and enduring process.

VA regional office finally lifts roadblock to veteran’s benefits  (The Tennessean)  A Tennessee World War II veteran will finally be able to collect his benefits now that a federal agency has dropped claims that he couldn’t handle his own financial affairs.

VA official answers benefit questions at GlenWood Park  (Bluefield Daily Telegraph)   Veterans who served their country during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and other conflicts had questions Thursday for a representative of an agency that impacts all their lives, the Veterans Administration.

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