The Best Defense

On veterans’ sense of entitlement: Hey, if your country is good enough to fight for, then it is good enough to come home to

By Stacy Bare
Best Defense bureau of veterans' affairs

There is no easy way to discuss the issue of veteran entitlement in America. It is a sensitive topic and that there are those veterans among us who have an issue with what entitlement is, perhaps a natural reaction. It is also a reaction that our strategic leadership should have foreseen. When you are part of the 1 percent who serves repeatedly and you come home to a country where most people are absorbed with  Jersey Shore, the Karadashians, or Michael Vick's dog trial but can't find Afghanistan on a map nor pick out the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a lineup, it is easy to feel like society owes you something. That is, however, not why we choose to serve and is antithetical to the nature of service and duty.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, America was encouraged by our president to go back to the lives we were used to living. We were not asked to gird ourselves for sacrifice, for war, for men and women who would come home disconnected and misunderstood by their communities; at worst, broken and bruised emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Since then, the men and women who served our nation have come home to a country that had little understanding of the war or what the war had done to our minds and bodies. Since Korea, our veterans have deserved better, but America was not ready then, nor were they now, for the wars of the last 11 years.

America panicked, and rightly so; we did not want a repeat of what happened during and after Vietnam. America did something and a lot of it. Something, however, does not always equate to the right thing. In our attempt to heal, to be generous, and to be thankful to those who volunteered to serve, America inadvertently created a cadre of veterans for whom nothing would ever be good enough and at times dis-incentivized reintegration back home. Our country was good enough to go fight for, why isn't it good enough to come home to?

We've got a lot of work to do in this country: It isn't just veteran issues that need fixing, and veterans can and should take an active leadership role. For example, roughly 1,000 service members have lost an arm since we started the war in Afghanistan. An estimated 30,000 Americans will lose an arm this year alone. Here is our opportunity to be a hero, to be a real warrior even without our uniform, to be  leaders in our communities. To embrace that challenge is a decision we as veterans have to make.

Our generation is easily the best supported generation of veterans since those of World War II. A lot of the something America has done is necessary, needed, and deeply appreciated. However, we have been nervous to say out loud that service alone should not guarantee free admission and the front of the line every time for every service member.

So what do we do?

We need to follow the examples of those veterans who have politely said "No ,thank tou" to the handouts and asked instead for a hand up, an opportunity to excel, a level playing field -- not free admission. We as veterans need to create a return on investment for the sacrifices and resources we're being given by a grateful nation and we need to stand beside America in the long hard work of creating a better future for younger generations, not just wait for free tickets to the next baseball game.

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The Best Defense

Does the Air Force Academy have ‘the least educated faculty’ in the country?

Jeff Dyche, who used to teach at the Air Force Academy, asserts so in an article I read yesterday. At the academy, he writes, "Learning for the sake of learning was all but anathema. ...  Combine this attitude with a faculty that may comprise a group of the least educated college instructors in the entire country and you have the basic framework of the US Air Force Academy."

Dyche, who now teaches at James Madison University, adds that at the academy, it seemed to him that academic work "took a back seat of military training, athletics, religiosity and ... 'character building'."

I also didn't know that all faculty members are required to be in their offices at 7:30 am, even if they have no morning classes, and that civilian faculty have to fill out time cards every week.

When I read articles like this I wonder why we still have military academies, if they aren't producing officers any better than those from ROTC and OCS routes. It seems to me that the academies are producing bright but undereducated officers at great expense. As Dyche notes, it costs taxpayers five to ten times more to produce a service academy officer as it does a ROTC officer.

Whitneybee's photostream/Flickr