One regrettable spinoff of the antiwar fervor in the United States in the post-Vietnam era has been the public tendency to take the personal and often courageous sacrifices of America's fighting men and women for granted. Not only have the veterans of that unpopular war suffered neglect and ingratitude. So have many volunteers still in service to their country at home and abroad.
President Carter's belated support of legislation to bolster the pay and benefits for members of the military is the kind of tangible gratitude that is due the men of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and their families after the carrier's record 144 days at sea. Likewise Representative John Anderson's proposal for comprehensive legislation to aid Vietnam veterans indicates the concern appropriate to Memorial Day.
One of the biggest difficulties of the all-volunteer military has been the steady loss of skilled personnel to higher paying civilian positions. The long tours of duty away from home and loved ones, dramatized by the Nimitz's return this week, plus pay scales so low that many servicemen qualify for food stamps have fed dissatisfaction within the ranks. This, in turn, has added to the difficulty of the services meeting recruitment goals. The legislation now being backed by the Carter administration, in a reversal of its opposition two months ago, would help by hiking re-enlistment bonuses from $15,000 to $20,000, raising sea pay by 15 percent, and increasing housing and subsistence allowances.
For the Vietnam vet, Congressman Anderson is seeking, among other things, a 10-year extension of educational benefits and quick evaluation and treatment for those with illnesses believed to have resulted from massive exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange.
Serious congressional consideration of the proposed measures could help do justice to America's past and present defenders, men and women who in too many instances have had to bear unfairly the stigma of government policy decisions over which they have no say.