As Americans, it’s hard to see a military veteran and not feel thankful to them for their service and sacrifice. It’s a feeling that is almost engrained in us, a must-have for any patriot. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But apparently, as Representative Ilhan Omar just proved, not all American citizens feel the same way. According to a suggestion she just made, veterans shouldn’t be given any special privileges, honors, or even benefits. And that includes the much-appreciated and used GI Bill.
Instead, she says those benefits should be made available to everyone, military service or not.
She tweeted an Alternet article recently that said, “Imagine what it would do for our country and those who live here if we were to take the ethos behind the original GI Bill and apply it everybody – canceling all student debt and making public colleges, universities, and vocational schools tuition-free.”
And while I’m sure the original author of these words had good intentions, to make a college education more realistic for those who otherwise can’t afford it, he and Omar are going about it in all the wrong ways.
The GI Bill rewards qualifying servicemen and women with things like scholarships and grants, as well as educational opportunities such as training and college courses for their service to our country. This is only available once a vet has served for a particular amount of time. Therefore, it is a privilege that is earned.
Any vet knows that. It is not freely given, as Omar would suggest. Its price is the sacrifice of years of service; in dangerous situations, some never come home from.
Vets and civilians alike can recognize that, as these social media users let Omar know.
“This really shows how little you know. The GI bill wasn’t free. I received the GI bill for proudly serving 11 years in the Army National Guard. I would completely agree that anyone who is willing to do that should receive this great benefit.”
Another said, “My son served in Afghanistan as a combat medic. Risked his life and saved lives. He earned is GI student loan and is now an ER nurse. You cheapen his sacrifice. Shame on you.”
The GI Bill’s purpose is to offer hope for something after their time spent in the military. It provides training in civilian careers and industries that years of combat could not prepare them for. But it also offers the civilian workforce an opportunity to benefit from the lessons and discipline these individuals did learn.
Saying that these opportunities should be given to everyone, regardless of service to their country, is essentially a slap in the face to veterans everywhere. It tells them that their sacrifice didn’t matter. And that is very, very far from the truth, as is the suggestion that the GI Bill is in any way “immoral.”
According to the author of the piece, young people in America have one of two choices: “to either put on a uniform or take on crushing debt.” And he states that it “offers a false choice, but also an immoral one – suggesting that individuals should have to choose between having an opportunity for a future by participating in never-ending U.S. wars or not having such an opportunity.”
However, as a young person not born into privilege, I can tell you that just isn’t true.
There are plenty of options for people of all ages and skillsets to attend secondary educational facilities for pretty much next to nothing. Think of all the people who earn academic scholarships, state or federal funded grants, or even get paid to play college sports. No matter where you have come from, what your race, gender, sexuality, or religion, there is some kind of educational funding out there.
As the cost of education has risen over the years, many companies have begun offering educational benefits to their employees, whether for the employee themselves or their children.
And in many cases, these options can completely cover any and all educational expenses, including room and board, books, and tuition.
But we can’t expect Omar to understand, as this vet so clearly states.
“Imagine SERVING YOUR COUNTRY (instead of your own SELF-INTERESTS). Imagine being placed in harm’s way while taking fire in some foreign country while dealing with IED’s, snipers and bombs. The GI Bill is for those who SERVED – something you know nothing about.”