It's hard to wrap my head around how this story fits in with the swirling rhetoric of 'supporting the troops' and 'brave heroes who got the world's worst terrorist' and the steadfast refusal to consider defense cuts lest we cause the troops to be ill-prepared. But even with all the double speak, this is a true abomination:
"No one who fights for this country overseas should ever have to fight for a job," Barack Obama said last Veterans' Day, "or a roof over their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home."
But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:
Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.
Since Abbottabad, he has trained his children to hide in their bathtub at the first sign of a problem as the safest, most fortified place in their house. His wife is familiar enough with the shotgun on their armoire to use it. She knows to sit on the bed, the weapon's butt braced against the wall, and precisely what angle to shoot out through the bedroom door, if necessary. A knife is also on the dresser should she need a backup.
Then there is the "bolt" bag of clothes, food, and other provisions for the family meant to last them two weeks in hiding.
"Personally," his wife told me recently, "I feel more threatened by a potential retaliatory terror attack on our community than I did eight years ago," when her husband joined ST6.[..]
In fact, the couple is officially separated, a common occurrence in ST6. SEAL marriages can be perilous. Husbands and fathers have been mostly away from their families since 9/11. But the Shooter and his wife continue to share a house on very friendly, even loving terms, largely to save money.
"We're actually looking into changing my name," the wife says. "Changing the kids' names, taking my husband's name off the house, paying off our cars. Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other."
When the family asked about any kind of government protection should the Shooter's name come out, they were advised that they could go into a witness-protection-like program.
Just as soon as the Department of Defense creates one.
UPDATE: Stars and Stripes disputes writer Phil Bronstein's characterization of the Shooter's available benefits:
...(T)he claim about health care is wrong. And no servicemember who does less than 20 years gets a pension, unless he has to medically retire.
Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL, who is identified in the story only as “the Shooter”, is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But the story doesn’t mention that.
The writer, Phil Bronstein, who heads up the Center for Investigative Reporting, stands by the story. He said the assertion that the government gave the SEAL “nothing” in terms of health care is both fair and accurate, because the SEAL didn’t know the VA benefits existed.
“No one ever told him that this is available,” Bronstein said.
He said there wasn’t space in the article to explain that the former SEAL’s lack of healthcare was driven by an ignorance of the benefits to which he is entitled.
“That’s a different story,” Bronstein said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes about what he omitted from the article.