08 October 2011

Thanks for.... nothin'?

We have a lot of good friends and mentors are retiring in the next few months. They've dedicated anywhere between 20 to 30 years to the Air Force and it's finally time for them to hang up the uniform. As they prepare for their transition to the civilian side of life, it makes me wonder; is the military selfish when it comes to their people?

We receive great benefits for serving our country-travel, health care, education, experience, job security... but does the military really care about their people? Sure, so long as you're doing your job and keep signing on that dotted line to give your life to Uncle Sam. BUT--when it's the end of the line, how much will Uncle Sam continue to take care of you? Does the military really show us how much they've appreciated what we've done during our tenure in the service and take care of us when we stop wearing the uniform?

Retirements can be a wonderful thing in the military being that the majority us joined right out of high school and because of that it that allows us to retire while we're still young (40s)... BUT now that the big boys up at capitol hill have started talking about messing around with our retirement benefits, it may not be as sweet later down the line for future military members if they have their way. Politicians, majority of them with no military background, take us for granted. We work for Uncle Sam (aka them, the government, the politicians) and they feel as if they can have their way with us and we'll go along with it with no complaints since we signed the dotted line, not realizing that their actions impact so much more than just saving a few dollars in the budget.

Medical care seems to go down when you no longer have the uniform on. True, civilians think that because we have free healthcare that it's awesome for us, but our healthcare system in the military isn't the best. "Vitamin M" bka Motrin 800 is usually the cure all for everything, long wait times for appointments to see specialists, and you aren't guaranteed to always see your "assigned" physician. In most cases when you find a great doc, it's difficult to keep going back to them because they're either booked right away because everyone else has discovered the awesome doc, they TDY or deploy, or even worse, they PCS. Let's not even start talking about dental care... I two words for active duty dental care- bloody painful. I haven't been to a base where the dental techs are gentle on their patients. No matter how great your dental hygiene is, you are destined to leave the dental office bleeding.

In no way am I trying to imply that our military doesn't appreciate what its veterans have done during their time in the service. I only wish that we could take better care of our military members once they obtain their "blue" card (retiree military ID cards are blue). Our members on the way to the civilian lifestyle could use more resources to help smooth the transition even more than what's already readily available to military members leaving for the other side, the civilian side.

My observation is that once you leave, the military doesn't watch you walk away, waving and smiling. It seems that they downgrade your membership, show you the door, and turn around to focus their efforts on convincing the young-ins to stay for a full 20 (who happen to be your replacements) so that they can make sure they get their money's worth that was paid to train them. I'm still proud to be a military member, but wish the military would show a little more gratitude and make it a give and take relationship. Or even better, I wish Uncle Sam would let the military be in control of the military.