Local Military News

Guest opinion: More help for veterans should be nonpartisan

Nov. 11 was Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the armistice signed by the Allies and Germans in 1918, signifying the end of World War I. In recent years, this holiday has been used to honor our veterans with ceremonies and parades. I believe there are other means to truly honor our veterans.

When I returned from a year's tour of duty in Vietnam in the late '60s, I was more fortunate than many of my comrades in arms: I had not been wounded, nor had I suffered from what today is called PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder affects thousands of our vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. In earlier wars, we did not know what to call this affliction. Today the military still has difficulty dealing with mental illness.

Veterans Affairs seems ill-equipped to properly assist these veterans, largely because of mismanagement and funding shortfalls. Congress has been reluctant to authorize sufficient funding to treat PTSD, much as it has with enhancing the GI Bill to include expanding free academic education, retraining and alternative educational opportunities, including technical and vocational skills.

Recently, South Carolina authorized in-state tuition rates for non-resident military members serving in our state. This is helpful to those GIs stationed at Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort who would like to take courses at USCB.

Local veterans organizations have taken the lead in urging the S.C. Legislature and governor to grant a waiver on taxing military retirement pensions for those service retirees making our state their permanent residence. Some state government leaders have taken a short-sighted view, insisting that any reduction in tax revenues through such waivers be compensated for by commensurate revenues from other sources.

Ample research has clearly demonstrated the benefits of military retirees in our community. They come ready to accept second-career jobs, enlarging our workforce. But we can't compete in attracting military retirees to our state because Georgia, North Carolina and Florida all have tax waivers for military retirees.

When the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were in high gear, many military members were serving three and four overseas deployments -- time away from their families. I visited many of our overseas intelligence units as an inspector general for intelligence.

By this time, retaining our best and brightest service members was becoming a real problem. While many of these young service members told me they loved their work, they could no longer stay in the military because of continuing family deprivations.

We need to honor those concerns as a nation and ensure that those who have done everything we asked of them get what they need when they are assimilated back into civilian life.

Most of these issues should be bipartisan. However, it takes Republican and Democratic legislators to enact federal and state legislation and presidents and governors to sign it into law. If you believe these and similar issues are important to really honor our veterans, let your state and federal officials know.

The parades and ceremonies are still important, but we can honor our veterans all year long.

Blaine Lotz of Hilton Head Island may be reached at gblotz@yahoo.com.

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