“The Story of a Soldier,” Tuesday’s New York Times article about custody battles and other trials faced by returning soldiers, reminds me of stories I heard from my uncle’s Army buddies.
According to the article’s Specialist Leydi Mendoza, she joined in order to have better healthcare and financial aid options. What she didn’t know is that the Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, which is what she assumed would help her in regaining access to her now two year old daughter, protects US service members from losing their jobs and their homes, but not from losing access to their children. Although changes have been proposed for this Act in several states, military officials have opposed them. There is also no guarantee that Specialist Mendoza will not be deployed again.
Upon return from Desert Storm, my uncle’s friends had to deal with custody battles, like Specialist Mendoza. In addition, they found themselves in the crossfire of a longstanding war against the Armed Services to provide adequate healthcare for people returning home with war wounds, mental and physical. This was before Gulf War Syndrome had a name.
When I told my uncle I wanted be like him and was considering joining the Navy, he gave me a firm look and said “Stay in school — this country wants you to fight for them, but they will not step up to bat for you when you need them the most.” I’m glad I followed his advice — but unfortunately, more young people of color are opting to join the services due to a lack of job opportunities, higher education and financial aid options, and let’s not count out a recession economy.
Do you know of any similar stories in your area?