Posted: 01/09/07 20:00
By Christopher Truscott
"The solider, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." ? Gen. Douglas MacArthur at U.S. Military Academy (1962)
There isn't really anything the state Legislature can do to fully repay soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines for their service, but a proposal unveiled Monday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a good start.
If the governor gets his way ? and judging by the reaction of leading DFLers, he will ? military pay and veterans' benefits will be exempt from state income taxes and veterans will also get $1,000 a semester for college tuition as a supplement to federal G.I. Bill benefits.
"The brave men and women in the military raise their hands and courageously serve all of us," Pawlenty said. "We owe them our appreciation and respect in our words and our deeds."
It's a modest proposal, part of a $74.8 million military and veterans' support package, but it's a positive step toward fulfilling the call to action issued by Theodore Roosevelt more than a century ago.
"A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards," the president made famous by his exploits in the Spanish-American war told an Illinois audience on July 4, 1903.
Members of the armed forces don't set policy ? they carry it out. Supporting them should always transcend politics.
In a free society, well-meaning citizens can disagree on a particular military action, but regardless of which side of the debate we find ourselves, we share an obligation to those tasked with saluting and carrying out orders under the most difficult circumstances.
Active-duty, full-time military personnel have made service a way of life ? 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, during peace and in times of conflict. They could've taken an easier path in life, but instead opted to answer the call to serve a cause greater than themselves.
They're not alone.
The thousands of National Guardsmen and reservists who have deployed from Minnesota to hotspots around the globe before and since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have literally put their everyday civilian lives on hold to defend us. They've walked away from school, jobs (that are often better paying), the comforts of home and their families and into a future they can't control.
Neither group of servicemen and women seek great reward for doing their duty, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve something from us. Tacking additional state benefits on to those already offered by the federal government is fair and reasonable.
Republicans and DFLers can be expected to square off on a number of fronts in the coming months. We'll see debate, compromise and probably our fair share of gridlock, but Pawlenty's proposal is a no-brainer that the Legislature should pass and send back to the governor for his signature before politics as usual returns to the halls of the Capitol.
Christopher Truscott can be reached at email@example.com. He'll get back to calling Pawlenty "profoundly stupid" as soon as possible.