America has a responsibility to give National Guard members the benefits they deserve

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Berk Oto

President Trump should extend the federal deployment of the National Guard writes Managing Editor Berk Oto.

Berk Oto, Managing Editor

For many Americans, Memorial Day represents the beginning of summer — warm weather, barbecues, weekend road trips, an extended break away from the monotony of daily life. Yet few recall that Memorial Day is a time meant to unite the country in the collective remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

Unfortunately, this was not a normal Memorial Day. Over 40,000 members of the Army National Guard are deployed across all state and federal territories, performing essential tasks like building and running mobile testing clinics, contact tracing, deep-cleaning and supplementing the work of underfunded and understaffed public health departments.

As members of the Army National Guard leave their families and jobs to work to protect us from the coronavirus, Americans individually and as a country must support them and recognize their hard work by deploying them long enough to provide well-deserved benefits.

Members of the National Guard are facing an unforeseen and unprecedented challenge from within their own government. President Donald Trump deployed the guard federally for 89 days. That’s just one day shy of the threshold for service members to qualify for early retirement and a cornucopia of social benefits. It would be naive to view this as a coincidence or fiscal responsibility when state and defense officials warned the president that local governments need more federal help.

The only other explanation is that the president is sacrificing the life insurance, vocational training, educational future, pensions, health care and honorary burial of members of the National Guard for minute savings. Not only does this action place a greater burden on strained local medical systems, it reveals Mr. Trump’s appalling disregard for the wellbeing of military service members. 

Mr. Trump points out that states may still deploy the guard after federal deployment is over. The problem with his argument is that no state can afford the overwhelming costs associated with widespread deployment. Even if a state were to scrape together enough money, only days when service members are federally deployed count toward their 90-day threshold.

Even if a state were to scrape together enough money, only days when service members are federally deployed count toward their 90-day threshold.”

Needless to say, due to mass layoffs and economic insecurity, service members and their families were already going through an especially difficult time this Memorial Day. Betraying them by denying high-quality benefits is not the way to honor their service and remember the legacies of soldiers who died for this country.

Citizens of the country with the most powerful military in the history of the world have a responsibility to remember their fallen service members. While this Memorial Day may have passed, amid your celebrations of the coming season, try to make up for federal negligence by volunteering your time and resources to help the families of active service members and honor the memory of the men and women we’ve lost.