By: Becky Lourey
This Veterans Day, I want to thank all of the men and women who have bravely served our country. I am so glad for every one of them who has returned home. So very glad. My son didn’t return. U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Lourey served proudly as an instructor pilot in 4-2 ACR during one of the most pivotal periods in the unit’s history. Matt was a highly skilled aviator who loved to teach and train army aviators, and who died on May 26, 2005, in Buhriz, Iraq, in service to his country when his OH58 was shot down while he was saving soldiers on the ground. In his memory, I must do all I can to ensure that our returning veterans receive all the care necessary to recover and maintain their health. A grateful nation also must establish the pathway for the skills and education our veterans gained while serving our country to be transitioned to jobs at home. Nothing less than this will do as we recognize the sacrifices they made and the risks they took.
I also must weigh in lest we as a people lose track of the balance we need in order to remain strong as a country. With the elections over, Congress must roll up its sleeves and get to work addressing a range of issues, including mandated cuts to both domestic and Pentagon spending (“sequestration”). Some members of Congress have proposed exempting the Pentagon from any spending scrutiny. They are quick to bring up our troops and veterans to scare us into thinking the inflated Pentagon budget is untouchable and should be continued to allow to rise as it has for more than a decade. As Matt’s mother, I think otherwise.
First, claims that the upcoming mandated reductions to Pentagon spending will have a major effect on veterans and active military personnel are inaccurate. Current law protects the Department of Veterans Affairs by exempting this department from spending cuts; further, the administration has affirmed that military personnel also will be exempted from any cuts if sequestration occurs.
Second, this fear-mongering is really about protecting Pentagon contractor profits, not about protecting our military personnel and veterans. Pentagon contracting firms have seen record profits, and some of their CEOs make salaries that are on par with Wall Street executives. Additionally, the top five Pentagon contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — have reduced their employment rolls by more than 18,000 workers over the past six years while their profits grew dramatically. They are also increasing their spending on lobbying.