Approximately 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard recently returned home after serving multiple tours of duty in Iraq. They served 22 months — “longer than any other ground combat unit” — received nine fatalities, and were awarded dozens of Purple Hearts.
But the Army wrote the orders for 1,162 of these soldiers for 729 days, making them ineligible for full educational benefits under the GI Bill, which requires written orders saying they were deployed for 730 days or more. These soldiers were shorted more than $200 per month for college.
First Lt. Jon Anderson believes that the military deliberately cut short their orders to avoid paying the soldiers’ education benefits:
It’s pretty much a slap in the face. I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership…once again failing the soldiers.
Watch CNN’s report on the issue:
Six members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, as well as Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D) and Norm Coleman (R), have asked Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to investigate the matter. Coleman said that it’s “simply irresponsible to deny education benefits to those soldiers who just completed the longest tour of duty of any unit in Iraq.”
Geren has reportedly assured the lawmakers that the cases “will be reviewed on an expedited basis, so that those who qualify can attend school next semester.”