TACOMA, Wash. — The first time Staff Sgt. Matthew Kruger came home from Iraq, he and his wife, Maggie, went straight into marriage counseling. The second time, she threatened to divorce him if he didn't get out of the Army. The separations were tearing them apart. So in July, to save his seven-year marriage, Kruger quit the service. Then he looked around the job market, and it didn't take long to figure out that leaving the Army held its own perils. Nothing offered him the financial security of his military job — especially the generous health coverage for his wife and three small children. And so, 29 years old and with no other place to turn, Kruger spent his first full day of freedom at a military processing center, signing up for four more years.
For many service members, it's a matter of balancing risk: Within the military, multiple deployments are commonplace, and more than 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and 18,000 have been wounded. Outside the military, 46 million people in the U.S. have no health insurance, and those who do pay increasingly higher prices for it.Now that the Guard has been broken by so many deployments it is unlikely I'll be sent overseas for awhile. A National Guard soldier can't be deployed for more than two years in a five year time period without signing a voluntary waiver. This creates gaps in units that preclude them from being deployed in the first place. Of course that doesn't mean that the day wont come eventually, there is always the chance of being swept up as back fill for one of these units that is under-manned. That's brings up issues on how these units that have never trained together are suppose to function effectivly, along with all the other issues a deployment brings on the home front with a soldiers family having no support group and not even knowing the other families from the unit (families that may even live hundreds of miles across the state).
There's a reason most vets running for office this year are running as Democrats. The military is perhaps the ideal society -- we worked hard but the Army took care of us in return. All our basic needs were met -- housing, food, and medical care. It was as close to a color-blind society as I have ever seen. We looked out for one another. The Army invested in us. I took heavily subsidized college courses and learned to speak German on the Army's dime. I served with people from every corner of the country. I got to party at the Berlin Wall after it fell and explored Prague in those heady post-communism days. I wasn't just a tourist; I was a witness to history.
The Army taught me the very values that make us progressives -- community, opportunity, and investment in people and the future. Returning to Bush Senior's America, I was increasingly disillusioned by the selfishness, lack of community, and sense of entitlement inherent in the Republican philosophy. The Christian Coalition scared the heck out of me. And I was offended by the lip service paid to national service when most Republicans couldn't be bothered to wear combat boots. I voted for Bush in 1992, but that was the last time I voted Republican.