For veterans, a helping hand from state
News that Connecticut has launched a series of initiatives to help up to 8,000 veterans make a smoother transition to civilian life reminds us that since Revolutionary times this nation has had a spotty record regarding its treatment of returning warriors.
• After winning independence from Great Britain, most of the Continental Army was summarily deactivated without pay in 1781. Two years later, hundreds marched on Philadelphia, then the capital, to demand compensation.
Rather than confront an angry mob, members of Congress fled to Princeton, N.J., and later ordered active soldiers to drive off their former comrades-in-arms.
• World War I troops who came home from Europe with no jobs received bonuses in 1924 in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1945.
Broke and frustrated by the Great Depression, they formed the Bonus Army and in 1932 more than 10,000 veterans and their families spent months camped out in ramshackle shelters in Washington, D.C., demanding immediate cash for their certificates.
After the Senate defeated a bill to pay them, the attorney general ordered all protesters off government property, and during the ensuing melee Washington police shot and killed two marchers. President Herbert Hoover then called in army troops led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Maj. George Patton.
On their orders soldiers charged with fixed bayonets, hurled tear gas into the crowd and set fire to tents - considerably less heroic actions than the World War II battlefield deeds that distinguished these legendary officers a decade later.
• World War II veterans fared best - welcomed home with ticker tape parades, cheering throngs and one of the most generous entitlements in U.S. history, the 1944 G.I. Bill, offering low-cost mortgages, loans to start a farm or business, education subsidies, a year of unemployment compensation and a host of other benefits.
• A generation later returning Vietnam veterans were spit on and castigated as baby killers by many of their fellow Americans who opposed the war.
The new programs announced in Hartford last week might be more modest than those in the G.I. Bill, but they should go a long way toward making life easier for the 6,000-8,000 veterans returning to Connecticut in the next two years as the Defense Department withdraws troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
As part of this plan Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has asked state agencies to interview veterans who apply for jobs in person because their military skills aren't always evident on a resume. He hopes at least one veteran is interviewed for each state position.
The state also is launching the Connecticut Veterans Job Match, designed to connect an estimated 1,000 veterans with manufacturing and trades-related experience with appropriate employers.
In addition, the state has expanded its Military Support Program so all military service members, veterans and their families may visit clinicians or call a crisis line at (866) 251-2913.
This newspaper supports the message of state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz: "We're crafting a new program of 'keeping the promise.' When we send people off to war, America makes a compact with them that they'll take care of them …. These are big steps to show those folks coming home that we do really mean what we say."
The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.
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