April 02, 2004

SECONDARY

I've had a sticky note on my desk for a while now with chicken scratches for a future post. I think today might be the day to knock it out.

Donald Sensing, among others, commented Wednesday on a female airman who refused the order to get her Anthrax shots. He found the story via Texas Native:

"I have a kid to take care of," said [Airman Jessica] Horjus, 23, the mother of a 2-year-old, who lives with her daughter in military housing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C. "The Air Force can always fill my slot with someone else, but who's going to fill the mommy slot?"

She got demoted, and another SGT who also refused the shots can't seem to understand why he's in trouble. Andrew Olmsted minces no words; he says these people should not pass Go and definitely shouldn't receive their $200. (He also has a lengthy collection of reasons why one would serve; the first letter was extremely interesting.)

The idea that people join the military and then balk at doing what it takes to be a servicemember is not surprising. I'm reminded a post by Sgt Mom and my favorite comment by Lori:

Classroom full of uncanned relish in Basic training, USAF. First day of instruction. Our TI goes around the room asking people why they volunteered for the service. A variety of answers are given - everything from 'money for college', 'travel', 'adventure', 'family tradition', 'opportunity to get myself out of my small town', etc. After everyone was done, the TI's response was 'You joined the Air Force to die for your country. Everything else is secondary'. Talk about a reality check.

I may not have ever been in the military, but I work directly with the "secondary" that Lori talks about. Working in the Education Center here has been a very rewarding experience so far, but it offers an interesting window into some people's priorities.

One of the great military "secondaries" is the education benefits. The Army will pay for you to get your education, up through a PhD if you so desire. (Unfortunately, there are some major flaws here, which I will discuss in another post.) However, your getting your education is in fact secondary to your duties as a soldier. When I hear soldiers complain time after time that their unit isn't giving them time to take classes or that they have to deploy and are never going to get done with their degrees, I have a hard time sympathizing. The Army does not need to give them time to get a degree. If they can squeeze it in, great. All of our classes are offered nights and weekends to maximize the chances of them squeezing it in, but no one ever guaranteed them that they could get it done. Their education is secondary.

I've also heard family members complain that Veterans' benefits are not transferrable; that is, the soldier can't give his free tuition to his spouse or kid who just graduated from high school. There has been talk of this happening in the future, and I personally think it's not appropriate. Soldiers earn this secondary benefit because of their service; if their children want the benefits, then they need to serve as well. The father cannot decline an education but pass on the monetary value to someone else. Education benefits are the reward for your service, not a gift certificate to be passed on to whomever.

I've met and heard of several soldiers who joined the military to get free college. My husband also started out with this idea. He needed to find a way to pay for school, and he looked into the Reserves before deciding to go the ROTC route. He earned those benefits too, only getting five hours of sleep most school nights and devoting most weekends and all of his summers to the military. Throughout his three years, he learned that the hours he put in to ROTC did not quite equal out to the monetary value of the education benefits he received, but he had gained something more valuable than money: he was a leader in the best military in the world.

Military benefits are always secondary to being a soldier. If you want to be a student, then you shouldn't be in the military, you should be in college. And even if you did join the military for the benefits, you can't change your mind once the going gets tough. When my husband signed the dotted line, he was not thinking about al Qaeda, but when the time came, he balled up and met the challenge. So must all soldiers. Yeah, there are no Education Centers in Iraq for you to work on your degree, and you might not have enough computer access to take an online course. But you can't bitch about it. Your job is to soldier, not to study.

Posted by: Sarah at 10:35 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Sarah, a select few MOSs can give up to 18 months of their GI Bill to their dependents if they meet certain strict criteria. It was approved in December 2001. You can read more about it here: http://www.gibill.va.gov/education/News/PL107107.htm and here (last paragraph): http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=4084 The criteria is strict and it is not something every person who signed up for the MGIB can do, but it has happened.

Posted by: Shannon at April 02, 2004 11:24 AM (lDxG/)

2 Wow!! Imagine my surprise to see you quote a comment I left a while back at another blog. I'm glad my short tale had an impact on you - that day definitely had one one me!!

Posted by: Lori at April 02, 2004 06:56 PM (k9rhx)

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