Having grown up as a military dependent and now working in a profession where I see how the economy is wreaking havoc on soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guarsdmen, I’ve always been a firm believer in giving military personnel and their families needed aid and comfort. Consistently, they face one of the crappiest professional and home enviroments found in American society, and we ask them to do it at a mere pittance while bankers, entertainers and sports figures drain wealth far in excess of their usefulness to society.
I’ve seen how that aid and comfort has been provided over the years, from service relief organizations to the firm yet fatherly guidance of a senior NCO for a wayward soldier or sailor. But this bit of news is something that our new National Command Authority might want to consider tending to in short order:
Between 2003 and 2007 — as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures — Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.
Tax-exempt and legally separate from the military, AER projects a facade of independence but really operates under close Army control. The massive nonprofit — funded predominantly by troops — allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans — sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training, the AP found.
Granted, you can’t run a military like it was a democracy. But a democracy certainly can impose some core values conducive to discipline, good order and humaneness toward the troops.