Conflicted

The Washington Post again this week carried a story about the Pentagon wanting to raise Tricare fees.  Currently, military retirees pay $460/year for family coverage; cost varies, of course, by status and family structure.  Compared to most civilian insurance plans, the amount is trivial.

One side of the issue is that my spouse and I spent a total of over 44 years working toward that benefit.  It was authorized as an incentive for the military to in some way make up for the months and years of working for low pay, for being on call at a moment’s notice to head toward base and play wargames or to put your life on the line in real war.  Some of use had it easier than others; most today don’t wonder if they’ll be called to a warzone, but when.

I distinctly recall my recruiter telling me that if I stayed for 20, there would be medical care for me and my family — space available.  Little did I dream, at the time, of space not being available.  Others don’t recall hearing the “space available”.  I don’t recall hearing “free”, but it was certainly presented as a benefit, not an option available for purchase.

The other side of the issue is that my 22 years in the Air Force gave me skills that could be parlayed into a comfortable income.  I came through those 22 years nearly untouched by the hardship and horror seen by some.  Both my husband I spent some time away from the family, but not the 300+ days per year that many do.  We did not serve in active war zones, but that too was a luck-of-the-draw item due to the time we were in service and the work we did.  So, could I be expected to pay for my health care?  Perhaps.  Looking from this perspective, I can support a needs-based schedule.

Then I look again.

First, I don’t trust our government bureaucracy to devise a realistic needs-based schedule.

Nor do I trust many GIs and former GIs not to attempt to circumvent it in any way possible; many were successful in their careers because of what they could get away with within the letter or intent of the law/regulation.

Then I think about the time I did spend away from the family, and that my spouse did.  And I think of those serving now, and the difficulties they and their families face, and ask whether our nation owes us for keeping our promises; whether or not we were called in time of war, we were there and ready.

I guess it comes down to what price we as a nation are willing to pay to maintain a military that is ready in all instances.  Are we willing to mortgage our future for the military of a size that may overwhelm our ability to pay for it, both in terms of current hardware and training and in future costs?

I’m willing to pay more for the level of care I receive now.  I don’t have a lot of faith that the level will remain as high as it is, given the needs of caring for those harmed by service in war zones.

So I’m still conflicted.   I see both sides, and don’t know where the “right” solution may be.

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

For those who’ve served, I’m thankful

I was just going to post a “Happy Thanksgiving” post – thankful I get to see my parents, and my new niece.  Thankful I have friends and associates who bring joy to my life.
Then a friend and mentor sent this.  Enough said.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”
” So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment