Thanks to the Compact of Free Association with Uncle Sam our young men and women have options. One of those options is to join the US Armed Forces. Great option, great opportunity.
Since 1986 or 1987 recruiters have been promoted off the raised hands of our young men and women. We have kept the recruiters from Guam, especially the Army, well above their recruiting quotas… You’re welcome 🙂
No sweat though, we volunteered. We wanted to serve, see the world, and have fun getting paid doing it. The US military is the greatest military this world has ever known. To be a part of something like that is exceptional. The sort of thing you tell your kids and grand kids about. Something to be proud of.
So, one of things that has been knocked around recently is what goes on after we get out. Access to health benefits is one of the big ones. Nathan Fitch who directed the documentary film Island Soldier had this to say about Micronesian Veterans who live in Micronesia:
“It’s hard for veterans in the U.S. mainland. It’s hard for veterans in Hawai’i. But I think this is an invisible population in a lot of ways that doesn’t have a voice,”
Truer words have not been spoken, except by Jesus of course.
I know, we volunteered and knew that when we returned home that there wasn’t a VA center in FSM, RMI or Palau. We chose to join and we chose to return.
It’s a complicated situation and one where most Veterans know we are between a rock and a hard place. We’ve been in these situations before, many of us, and we have learned through training, failure, sweat, pain and blood that there is no situation we can not adapt to or overcome. Adapt or overcome. Unless you were in the Air Force… joking 🙂
Seriously though, I’ve spoken with many Veterans in the FSM who are just frustrated about this situation. Could this possibly be something brought to the table of the 2023 negotiations? Can our local veteran organizations unite under ONE FSM veteran organization to tackle this issue? Can our Ambassador to the US work with Guam, Hawaii and CNMI’s representatives in Congress to press this issue? I’m just asking questions. There is an answer out there.
While we are on this issue, might as well bring up the fact that we can’t apply for (because they won’t accept) VA Home Loans in Micronesia. This is another one of those things that frustrates many of my Vet brothers and sisters. Wouldn’t lending money to veterans – who are mostly employed or have pensions/benefits- to build homes (creating jobs) help the economy? I’d take that over the health benefits.
I guess this is the aftermath of service to the greatest nation in the world. I know solutions can happen but making them happen is like eating a soup sandwich. You can never get it done, the soup and the sandwich don’t cooperate. Until you think outside of the box and eat the soup first then sandwich or vice versa and tell yourself it was a soup and a sandwich… get it? Never mind, I’m thinking of the forward mess decks on my first ship.
On the whole I believe we were given (through the COFA) a great opportunity. We served in the greatest military force ever. We learned so many valuable lessons. Let me encourage all Micronesian Veterans to serve this country like you served the US, “with full measure of devotion to these, our native lands”. Carry on.