Marine Lance Cpl. Donald John Cline Jr., a 21-year-old former La
Crescenta resident who died in March during combat in Iraq.
While I recognize that many Californians have differing views of
the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, I would hope that all
Californians can agree that Nov. 11 is a day to reflect on what we
can and must do to help all of our veterans -- whether they served in
World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm or in Afghanistan and
California is home to the nation's largest veteran population,
with some 3.3 million former armed services personnel living within
the state's boundaries. Veterans make up 20% of our total state
population, while nationally, California is home to more than 12% of
the country's veterans.
Our veterans often have unique difficulties. Prolonged deployment
causes personal and financial hardships for soldiers and their
families. Upon returning from war, veterans are expected to rebuild
the lives they left behind, reenter the job force and adjust to
civilian society again. Veterans go through all this, sacrificing
their own personal safety and well-being, to protect ours.
Changing U.S. policy has created new problems for today's veterans
and their families. The role of reservists is shifting from short
tours of duty to longer, more frequent time commitments. These
unexpected longer tours of duty are causing personal and financial
hardship. Recently, the U.S. has relied much more heavily on
reservists in places like Korea, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, reservists receive fewer benefits than their active-duty
counterparts, especially health-care benefits. Reservists receive
health care from the federal government only when deployed into
active duty, unlike their counterparts.
In addition, the Bush administration's new tiered health-care
rules will result in thousands of veterans losing their health-care
benefits. The administration's failure to adjust the Department of
Veterans' Affairs budget to keep up with burgeoning demands has
already resulted in reduced services and longer waits for existing
services. If we are going to maintain the world's greatest military