Guest Editorial: George A. Ross
By George A. Ross | August 26, 2009
You are in the process of attempting to once again modify your healthcare contract with me and my fellow brethren, the Armed Forces, past and present, of our country. As I approach my 71st year, I look back upon 20 years of active service in the United States Marine Corps between 1963 and 1984. In that time frame I was deployed for over 5 years. Fully one fourth of my career was spent away from my family. I spent over 1 year of heavy combat in Vietnam – not much in comparison to many others and certainly not the sacrifice paid by 12 of my squadron mates whose names appear with over 58,000 others on the Vietnam Memorial. Whenever I visit them, I feel deeply moved spiritually touching their names and remembering how they were in 1967 and 1968. Viewing the chambers of our government, I feel detached and highly disappointed. I expected so much more from our elected officials.
As Vietnam Veterans, we returned to no parades, just jeers and vilification. Yet a combat Marine in Vietnam averaged over 280 days per year in combat as compared to just over 80 days for a WWII Marine. In 1968 the Marine Corps suffered more casualties than any other year in our 233 year history. Between 1965 and 1973 the U. S. lost, on average, 4 aircraft per day. The statistical breakdown of those killed in action compared exactly to the racial breakdown of the country. The combat units were made up of a majority of the middle class. Unlike other wars, the upper class did not participate.
Vietnam Veterans have done better economically upon returning to civilian life than all other veteran groups. Our depiction, by the media, Hollywood and even by members of our government, has been stilted. Now, you are proposing to add insult to injury by hammering our healthcare contract.
Government lives in perpetuity. Therefore, you assume the responsibilities not only of your term but of all those that have preceded you. All members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, past and present, have been on the receiving end of a broken contract. In my case, there was an implied contract for healthcare for myself, my spouse and my adolescent children. In 1963, when I entered the Marine Corps, that meant at the nearest military facility and, if one were not available, at the nearest medical facility. That morphed into Champus and currently Tricare. In 1963, when I signed the contract, Medicare did not exist. You and your predecessors saw to it that when I and my brethren reached age 65, Medicare became our primary medical insurance and Tricare our supplemental medical insurance. This came with a large deduction from my Social Security. Prior to age 65, Tricare is our primary insurance and we purchase supplemental insurance at far less cost than the deduction that occurs at age 65.
My elected officials have a horrible track record of voiding contracts. Now, we are on the cusp of yet another contract violation, a national health care system, which I sense will cost me dearly. Tricare will disappear. Why? We, who have served and are serving, are not a large enough voting block. We play an insignificant part in your re-election so we become an easy target. Votes are power.
Before you respond to this, let me explain. On Friday, July 24 this year, I was privileged to attend the Sunset Parade in honor of the Wounded Warriors at the Marine Barracks 8th and I St. Washington, D.C. Before the parade, I attended the Commandant’s cocktail party in the garden of his home at the barracks. The President attended and gave a short speech in honor of the Wounded Warriors. He stated “we are a nation of over 300 million people of which less than 1 percent serve in the Armed Forces and of those less than 1 in 10 are Marines”. He truly meant it as an honor to “the few, the proud, the Marines.” Yet, to me, it was a reality check. We have become a small force, not only militarily but as a voting block. The all volunteer military has had a vast and deleterious effect on our nation. The “citizen soldier” no longer exists; most Americans don’t know anyone in uniform. Look at our elected officials – few have or will serve in the military.
There is not much this aging Marine can do to prevent the debacle that is about to occur. I proudly served and bled for my country and I would do it all over again. I will always be a patriot but you, the elected officials, have become detached from the public and especially the military. You have become panderers for votes on a grand scale, not the problem solvers we need. This is not what the “founding fathers” had in mind. You have become the royalty that was displaced 233 years ago.