Douglas E, Morris
Right now, every American worker is on the front lines of the war against a viral pathogen, especially U.S. nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel. So are our retail workers, food service workers, and transportation workers, many of who earn a low minimum wage without any benefits.
If the global pandemic that is sweeping through our communities does not awaken us to the need for every American to be covered, insured, and protected the same way as the entire U.S. military, nothing will.
And what a coverage the U.S. Military gets. They receive Comprehensive Health and Dental Care, Pensions, Free or Inexpensive University, Paid Sick Leave, Subsidized Food and Housing, 30 Days Annual Vacation, and much, much more (www.military.com/join-armed-forces/military-benefits-overview.html). In fact, what the U.S. Military receives is more comprehensive than any of the social democracies in Europe.
Yes, I understand the reason that our servicemen and women have all these necessary benefits is that they put their lives on the line to serve our country. A recent Congressional Report (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/IF10899.pdf) indicates that “since 2006 … a total of 16,652 active-duty personnel and mobilized reservists have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. Seventy-three percent of these casualties occurred under circumstances unrelated to war.”
Clearly, it‘s not just war that is dangerous, but also training for war. Even so, despite the peril associated with serving in the military, more regular U.S. workers die every year than those who serve in the armed forces.
If a total of 16,652 U.S. military have died from 2006 to 2018, that is a tragic 1,388 loss of life on average each year. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that there were 5,147 workplace fatalities in the U.S. in 2017 (www.bls.gov/iif/). That’s almost four times the U.S. military annual average.
Even with such statistics, instead of realizing the importance of U.S. workers and valuing them the same as U.S. service members, the U.S. government continues to roll back worker protection, and continues to undervalue workers by being the only developed nation in the world not to offer paid sick days, or legally mandated vacation days, or universal health care, or universal pension plans, or so much more.
Maybe COVID-19 will wake the American people up to their importance to the U.S. economy. Without the workers on the front lines of U.S. capitalism, working in the hospitals, serving in restaurants, helping in stores, keeping the wheels of commerce rolling, the entire country grinds to a halt and no one makes any money. U.S. workers are the tip of the spear of the American way of life, especially now during a global pandemic. So let’s start protecting our nation’s most important resource, its people, by enacting Military Benefits for All. Every American deserves it.
Douglas E. Morris is the proud son of generations of US servicemen, and author of It’s a Sprawl World After All (www.itsasprawlworld.com/) and other books.