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ABSquad is a PROUD supporter of the USO
I would like to personally say to all of the men and women
who are now, or who have ever, worn the uniform...thank you...
OFFICE and THE NEW YORK TIMES
in association with LIFE BOOKS present:
The soldiers' last words. Their families' last memories. Our nation's lasting gratitude. This Veterans Day, HBO and The New York Times, in association with LIFE Books, present a poignant tribute to the fallen American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war in "Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops from the Battlefields of Iraq", read by the families of the men and women killed in action.
A Soldiers Story
I sat down in awe recently and watched the HBO documentary above entitled "Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops from the Battlefields of Iraq". It's the story of the very last letters from troops in the field over in Iraq that their families received prior or shortly after their death. It is a VERY moving and touching tribute to the men and women who are currently in harm's way for this country. Their stories are honest, sincere, and a tribute to those who put their life on the line every day over in Iraq. I strongly urge everybody to visit this Web site, take a look around, and then think as I did...
For me, the documentary made me think of what this nation in turn does for those who have fallen to defend our freedom and in the end pay the ultimate price so that you and I can be with our families...And so I began to dig, and what I found should make EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN outraged and write to their elected officials to do something about it. Here is the story of one Aaron White, and an excerpt from his last letter home to his wife, Michele, and his baby daughter, Brianna:
Staff Sgt. Aaron White
"What keeps me up at night is thinking you may never know what you mean to me...If I don't come home, please tell Brianna that her daddy loves her more than life...Brianna, it breaks my heart to have to miss your first birthday. I hope that you will forgive me...I fall asleep every night with visions of you and your mommy in my head, reminding me of all I have been blessed with. I will be with you every day, if not in body, then in spirit. I love you more than my words could ever say."
Marine Staff Sgt. Aaron White, 27, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, was among four Marines killed in Iraq when their transport helicopter crashed into a canal in central Iraq shortly after takeoff. on May 19, 2003. A fifth Marine died trying to save them. White was assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Pendleton, California. Aaron was killed two days after Brianna turned 1.
Now for the outrage:
When an American in a military uniform is killed, his or her family receives a one-time death "gratuity" of only $12,000. The surviving family may also qualify for the Survivor Benefit Plan, which is paid up to age 62 or until the spouse remarries. The SBP benefit amounts to 55% of the soldier's retirement pay, pay that is already so low it qualifies many military families for food stamps.
These "benefits" are contingent on fulfilling many petty regulations...Aaron's wife Michele did not qualify for the SBP benefit because he was in the Marine Corps just under 10 years. Several other benefits, such as the income-based Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, may pay out about $800 per month and $200 per child, depending on the case. Michele did not qualify because of arcane red tape and technicalities. Michele and Brianna's medical benefits will end three years from the date of Aaron's death. But Michele did receive some modest insurance compensation, but only because her husband had paid for the coverage out of his own meager salary from Uncle Sam.
A just-released study by the Rand Corporation found that the families of civilians killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, received an average of $3.1 million in government and charitable compensation. The families of the firefighters and police officers who died that fateful day received an average of $4.2 million.
Our soldiers, like Staff Sgt. Aaron White, are being killed every day over in Iraq, but most of us seem to feel little personal connection with them, maybe because of the distance and the lack of interest by the media (unless it is something like the beatings at the prison --- always bad, never the good). If we did feel a connection, their widows and families would be better compensated. Our idea of "supporting the troops" seems to be limited to a magnetic yellow ribbon stuck on the back of our cars...Those Americans who do not serve or do not have family serving are disconnected from our all-volunteer armed forces and their families.
Let's admit the truth here: We treat our military like second-class citizens. Don't get me wrong here...I'm very glad that the families who lost loved ones on September 11th were generously compensated, but I think it's time to ask why the family of someone who has done no more for his country than to show up at a stock market trading office on the wrong day should receive thousands of times as much as the family of a soldier who volunteered to leave his wife and child to defend the rest of us???
Most of the dead from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are being buried in small towns and in the blue-collar or middle-and-lower-middle-class sections of our cities. Our politicians seem better able to identify with the needs of stock traders' widows...not to mention the businesses and airlines that were also generously compensated...than with the needs of the families of our soldiers. This is a scandal...
In his second-to-last letter home, Aaron wrote: "Believe me I am not having a good time here. This is an ugly hasty land. I hope [our] people appreciate the blood we are to spill".
Judging by how we are taking care of his widow and daughter, apparently the answer is that we do not...Remember the names of Aaron, Michele and Brianna White...And remember those who are still in harm's way...
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"The only thing necessary for the triumph of Evil is for good men to do nothing."
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Date last modified: May 13, 2010