Dear Zenith News:
I finished reading your article [“Dollars and Sense,’ December 15, 2015] and found that not all facts were reported. The Department of Defense gives a stipend for every child attending local school districts that has a parent working for the Guard. Your article also failed to relate the economic impact of traditional and full time employees that have retired and stayed in the community.
The Minnesota Guard wasn’t meant to fight foreign wars. George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney decided to use all the Guards to fight their unfunded wars because they knew if they reinstated the draft the public would rebel. All the Guard units have been deployed in one way or another overseas, sometimes multiple times. Many times they were withdrawn before they got veteran’s status to save money.
The bottom line is that the Guard units return hard cold cash that would be going to other states.
Disclosure: I am a spouse of a retired Guard member.
Robert Kosuth replies: I thank Ms. Bloom for her letter regarding the issue of federal stipends for students who are children of the Guard. According to Bill Hanson, Director of Business Services for the Duluth School District, there is such a federal program, called “Impact Aid,” but during Hanson’s 12 and a half years with the Duluth Schools, the District has not received any such stipends because there have to be at least 400 school children of military families for a district to qualify.
Due to the fact that the program ended before Hanson joined the District, he was not able to turn up details about how much was received per student or exactly when the program ended. The high point of ISD 709 enrollment (current enrollment is 8,000) was about 25,000 students around 1975, which was also when an air base was here, not just the 148th Fighter Wing, so the number of military personnel was surely higher. Hanson made it clear that the schools are grateful to any employer that brings parents and children into the district, but currently Guard jobs are no different from others in that regard.
It is true that if the 148th were relocated without replacement, it would mean an economic loss to Duluth. However, as my article pointed out, non-military federal jobs pay more on average and permit a more diversified local economy than a militarized economy in which communities are whipsawed into competition for very limited choices as to what kind of jobs they can get.
Ms. Bloom’s concerns about the Guard’s change in mission are similar to those expressed in my article by Duluth City Councilor Sharla Gardner. By using the Guard for its unfunded wars, the government is avoiding an honest public policy debate and an equal sharing of the burden of military service across all segments of society. As a drafted Vietnam Era veteran myself, I could not agree more that this dishonesty needs to be challenged.