Congress appointed an independent commission to travel the United States and hold meetings with active and retired soldiers and their spouses. The commission is designed to see what is important to our military and their families — even though there already is a proposed budget that outlines the cuts that will affect our military families.
The commission did not have anything to do with the 2015 budget for the military. The issue that many have with this group is that they started traveling to different military bases after the budget was proposed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in February. What is this commission for, if not to take what they hear back to Congress so they can fight for the benefits that are on the chopping block?
Harry Truman was president the last time the military pay and retirement system saw significant reform. Just for clarification, Truman was in office from 1945-53. To save you time looking for a calculator, that’s 60-plus years since a major reform.
“Hey, don’t worry” is the current train of thought, though, because all current military and retirees will be grandfathered into the current system, or so the commission states. The commission states the proposed budget will not really affect any of the new recruits because they are young and do not think about or want a retirement plan, so it is not that big of a deal for them.
Whew! That is a relief, then, since it is obvious that young people do not plan for their future or their future families, so it is perfectly acceptable to not offer or greatly reduce our future soldier’s retirement plan. It’s not like we have a large population of homeless veterans in this country.
Also, we all know how easy it is to find a job in today’s economy that offers full health benefits and a 401(k) and pays well enough to support a family.
We know that the coming years for our military will be trying, to say the least. There are more cuts on the horizon. There are plans to cut more brigades and have a round of Base Realignment and Closure, in which, hopefully, we stand to gain and not lose troops. We also have rising tensions among some of our allies. Add this in with the proposed plan to further cut our military-benefit package, and it is a wonder we have any new recruits.
The U.S. government is shrinking our military and cutting its funds, which make training and development of new tactics difficult. If our allies, whom we have sworn to protect through one treaty or another, get into a conflict, will we be able to send aid? Will we be able to protect our own sovereignty and freedoms that we hail as the backbone of the United States? How can our military protect us if we are not protecting them?
We are a military community, and we have grown substantially since the military began to invest in our town. Liberty County had a population of less than 500 when the military decided to set up a major base here in 1940. By 1970, our population had grown to over 17,000 people, and by 2012, it was at over 65,000 residents. This county has thrived since the military opened our base.
Our business community is made up of small-business owners, with a handful of national chains thrown in the mix. This community needs to support our military. We need to fight for the soldiers as they have fought for us. We need to support them by supporting the organizations that fight for them as well as protect our civilian community.
Those of you out there who do not believe we are in any real jeopardy — remember, we were at 500 strong before they came here. Will our population remain at its current growth without the soldiers? It didn’t grow much after Sherman burned Liberty County down during the Civil War. Do we want to take that risk by not getting involved and doing everything we can to support our military?
Now is the time to act. Join the movement to keep our region solvent and invest in the Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter today. For more information and to get involved, go to friendsofftstewartandhunter.com.
Hughes is the finance assistant for the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.