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No One Joins For The Death Benefit

Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force. All Carry The Death Benefit.


Fort Ord Boot Camp, 1974. Trainee Gillaspie, 19 years old. Now 58.

Modern war doesn’t draft troops.

Young men and women talk to recruiters and sign up.

They sign up on the trust of the recruiter and their own research.

It’s a deal that says if you fulfill your end, we’ll do the same.

What’s the deal?

Without death it wouldn’t be a war. It would be a game, a convention, or a government.

People don’t sign up to die, but to follow orders. Sometimes they get ordered into deadly places.

The American end of the military deal offers a $100,000 death benefit paid three days after death. Did you know that before the government shutdown? Now everybody knows.

The death benefit is a promise between the armed forces and the government they serve. At least it was a promise. Now it’s a broken promise.

Who broke it?

Not a Marine from the Forgotten War in Korea. He hasn’t forgotten much.

In his words: “I was in Korea and ready to come home. I’d already separated from my outfit and in with the guys rotating out of Korea. A short-timer.

“Word came down that a butterfly bomb hit the DMZ and they needed someone to get in there and clean things up.

“I happened to be a mine expert who knew what to look for in butterfly bombs. First, it’s a container full of small bombs, or mines. The container opens and smaller bombs float down. They go off with an altitude fuze for air burst, from hitting the ground, on a delay, or from handling them.

“None of it’s good and I was the best man for the job. Did I want to go? No one wants to go, but I went.”

He knew what he was doing. He could have skipped that mine field, but then someone else would have gone and triggered a butterfly bomb.

Some things you can live with, some you can’t.

Jump forward to the Baby Boomer war in Vietnam. Both Korea and Vietnam used the draft.

Not everyone drafted turned into a lifer, not every Era-Vet served in a war zone, but Americans stood up the way they did in WWII, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan.

Good guys who read the small print knew one thing: if they died, their families would receive a death benefit.

Do you think one of the Vietnam tunnel rats thought about the death benefit before they slid into a black hole with a flashlight in one hand and a 45-auto in the other?

Americans join the service to follow orders. If they stay in long enough, the learn to give orders.

They don’t have time to reflect on what could have been, or talk about passing a new law. Their orders are the law and they expect their men to follow them.

At the same time, when the United States government decides to send service men and women into a war zone, military personnel pack up and ship out. They follow orders.

Now you too have a chance to follow orders if you don’t mind them issued from former U.S. Army Pfc Gillaspie (1974-1976.)

Contact the Oregon congressional delegation and request that they do their politician jobs: Make a deal that matters to the armed services. If your live outside Oregon, find your delegation here.

Keep the promise.

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are waiting.

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Greg Walden, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader want your encouragement.

About David Gillaspie
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