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Editorial Comment — May 2014

 

A young member of the military community, Luis Beltran, the son of an Army master sergeant, won a scholarship this spring in the Scholarships for Military Children program supported by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and Fisher House. He read his prize-winning essay to military resale and industry executives attending the Scholarship Luncheon during the American Logistics Association (ALA) Commissary Roundtable early this month. The Beltrans are commissary patrons at Fort Lee, Va.

His message was concise, powerful and well received by those at the luncheon. We include it here as a guest Editorial Comment.

Beltran, who was 17 when he wrote the essay, graduates from Colonial Heights High School in Colonial Heights, Va., in June. He will attend Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall to pursue a degree in either biomedical or chemical engineering. After earning his degree, he hopes to conduct research and develop new products that can help save and improve human lives.

GRIDLOCK IN CONGRESS AFFECTING THE MILITARY COMMUNITY ...

 

There are many inherent rewards and sacrifices associated with being part of the military community. Usually these come with the benefit of job security for servicemembers, but the current fiscal environment now has a blanket of uncertainty about the future of all military families. The demands placed on servicemembers and their families since Sept. 11, 2001, have been tremendous and hard to deal with, but the current budgetary discussion related to cuts to the military could have a longer-lasting effect on the military community. Our national debt and the need to balance the federal budget deficits are being used to justify projected cuts into the national defense budget, and in turn, the resources needed not only for national defense, but also to slash the number of servicemembers and their benefits.

As a country, we owe a great debt to our veterans and especially those that sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation. Reductions in the Veterans Affairs Department budgets will have a direct impact on the future of these great Americans and their families, and should never be considered in any discussions to reduce the federal budget. One of the most startling proposals is the reduction of 90,000 personnel from active duty, which means that these military families will have to transition to the civilian sector, joining the unemployment lines until they can find comparable jobs to support their families; and that will be a difficult task in the current job market. For those that are able to stay in and continue serving our country, there is not any peace of mind, either. There are several proposals aimed at cutting morale and welfare programs, and education benefits. Recently, the Secretary of Defense, The Honorable Chuck Hagel, presented the latest proposed budget for his department that included cuts of up to $1 billion to the Defense Commissary Agency, which is one of the biggest benefits servicemembers, retirees and their families depend on to supplement the disparity in pay with the civilian sector. These drastic and life-changing proposals are not very hard to implement, and will satisfy the demands for fiscal restraint by those that have no concern for those affected by these cuts.

It is the current partisan environment in Congress, and not any type of excess from the military, which has resulted in extreme legislative actions, like the sequestration initiatives responsible for the current proposed cuts to the defense budget. Our leaders in Congress should never use the military as a talking point to serve their own political purposes, and servicemembers should never be the first victims of budgetary battles.

If given the authority to address these problems, I would work with leaders from both sides in Congress to convince legislators to compromise on a balanced budget that would replace sequestration, which does not solve our long-term fiscal issues. Tax reform, means testing to entitlements, and ending the war in Afghanistan would make a huge difference that would benefit everyone, and would protect the military community.

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