In my mind, neither hope worked out particularly well: though he has served loyally, our country has asked him to be a part of an ill-conceived and poorly-waged war that doesn't feel much like "defense" of what I treasure of our nation. And, he certainly has not been able to make much progress toward completing his college degree.
It's not for lack of trying: he has enrolled every semester that he's been home, and has succeeded in completing just four semesters. At his expected return from deployment this fall, his six years of obligation will be complete. During his time in the Reserves, he has been eligible for tuition assistance and, since his first deployment to Iraq, some of the benefits of the GI Bill.
However, as it is currently written, he will receive no additional benefits from the GI Bill after he leaves the active Reserves this fall. Unlike active duty members, who have several years after they leave their military service to use these educational benefits, his benefits would end with his reserve obligation. Which seems a bit ironic, given that, though he's tried, he has not been home long enough to use much of these benefits.
Which brings me to the possibility of change.
Senators Jim Webb (D-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have proposed a Senate bill that would improve and extend GI Bill benefits. They're calling it the "21st Century GI Bill," and it rewrites the current policies to extend these educational benefits in a way that more closely resembles the GI Bill of WWII fame--as a policy that could genuinely provide opportunity giving educational and economic possibilities to the men and women who have served during this time of war. Men and women who as disproportionately poor and ethnically diverse.
The Bill's authors are seeking co-signers, to assure it doesn't get lost in process. You can see if your Senator is on the list here. Both California Senators are on the list. Are yours?
The House equivalent, H.R. 2702, The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007, is also seeking co-sponsors. In San Diego County, Rep. Filner has signed on, but Hunter, Davis, Issa and Bilbray have not. You can check for co-sponsor updates, or in your area, here.
Wouldn't it be swell to send a quick note to your Congress-people, thanking them for signing on, or urging their co-sponsorship? Something like this:
I'm writing to urge you to support/thank you for supporting (for Representatives) H.R. 2702, The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007 or (for Senators) S.22, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Bill.
[that was the tricky part. now that you've figured out if you're thanking or urging, and if you're talking about a House Resolution or a Senate Bill, we should be good to go...]
A friend of mine finds himself in a similar position to too many other veterans of the war in Iraq: he has served dutifully, and now, as he finishes his service, is left with few benefits. An Army Reservist, he joined at the same time he re-enrolled in college, believing he could serve his nation and further his education at the same time. Now on his second deployment to Iraq, he has been unable to make much progress toward his Engineering degree.
Extending educational benefits will not only serve him well, though; it will also serve our nation well to provide educational possibilities for so many who have been affected by this war. The benefits to our nation will be great, if we provide opportunities for more people to attain college degrees. As we contemplate the long-term effects of this war on the people who have served in our military and on our nation, I applaud efforts to provide long-term benefits as well.
Thank you for your time and your attention to this matter.
[And, if you want it to be easier, you can send it through this website. I never thought I'd link to a site called military.com, but there you have it.]