Today, nine members of Iraq Veterans Against the War testified before the Congressional Progressive Caucus about their experiences fighting in the Iraq war. Kristofer Goldsmith, who served Sadr City and was stop-lossed after returning home, revealed that he had attempted suicide and was discharged. The discharge forced him to forfeit the educational benefits promised under the GI bill and thus his “one hope and dream” to go to college:
I was stop-lossed. My one hope and dream in the military was to go to college after I went through Iraq. I attempted suicide. I never deployed a second time. Because of that I received a general discharge. I lost my college benefits, the $40,000 promised to me in the Montgomery GI Bill, I will not be eligible to receive. And currently there is a Senator in Congress currently running for president, who is fighting to kill our Webb GI bill. And I’m one of the soldiers who will never get that money.
Of course, Goldsmith is referring to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has steadfastly opposed Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) bipartisan attempt to dramatically expand educational benefits for returning veterans. In fact, McCain’s own watered-down alternative, which reserves the most generous benefits to those who serve at least 12 years, would exclude soldiers like Goldsmith who suffered physical or psychological problems that made serving 12 years impossible.
The Pentagon also sees no problem with excluding soldiers like Goldsmith from reaping educational rewards. Just recently, a Pentagon spokesman criticized Webb’s bill for providing full educational benefits to soldiers “after only two years of service.” He said that “six years would show a commitment to service” — a commitment the Pentagon apparently thinks Goldsmith, who could not serve for a full six years, never demonstrated.