Finally, making a “confirmed killing” as a veteran
As a veteran serving during the Vietnam War, I didn’t feel I was receiving the benefits that so many often brag are being given to veterans. I did receive the G.I. Bill back in the 1970s but, since then, there hasn’t been much. Until now, as more and more stores feel a sense of patriotism and give veterans bigger discounts.
By Ray Hanania
I enlisted during the Vietnam War, admittedly so I could choose the military branch I wanted to serve. My draft number was low. I choose the U.S. Air Force in part because they offered me medical training at an F-111 fighter base that was scheduled to ship overseas to Vietnam.
After I enlisted, the war started to wind down and within two years, they honorably discharged me into the Illinois Air National Guard, where I served an additional 12 years of service.
As a veteran, I received the G.I. Bill which was huge, $420 a month while I was attending college fulltime, plus I received a huge discount to attend a state college. I switched from Northern Illinois University, which I left before the war, to enter the University of Illinois at Chicago.
But over the years, I realized there were few other benefits to being a veteran. A lot of people didn’t like the Vietnam War so I didn’t get the often repeated phrase that we hear today, “Thank you for your Service.”
I learned I could get help with a cheap tombstone like the brass one the U.S. 5th Army provided when my dad died in 1970 after serving four years during World War II. My “survivors” could get help burying me. It was $200 when I was honorably discharged, and it’s now about $1,000.
I could get an interest discount by getting a V.A. loan, but every loan I did receive was cheaper through a bank than the V.A.
And because I was successful in journalism and communications, I had good jobs and health insurance, so I never ended up visiting the V.A. Hospital, which patients there told me was a step better than Cook County Hospital in terms of being overwhelmed, understaffed and bureaucratic.
I never really got much beyond that for serving my country. I didn’t really ask for anything. I worked hard to get whatever I could get. But last week, that changed. I discovered some benefits that I earned by being a veteran.
After 15 years as a Sprint customer, I was tired of their poor service, so last year I switched to T-Mobile. And last week, T-Mobile reached out to me and said that veterans would receive a significant discount for their service.
I went in and asked, do you mean Iraq War veterans only? Nope, I was told, even the forgotten Vietnam War veterans. The discount cut my monthly bill by $50, almost 30 percent.
I was in shock. You don’t get much from the military. Much of their Army and Air Force records were destroyed in a major fire back in 1973, so I couldn’t explore my dad or my uncle’s service beyond records they handed down to me.
And then, when I was in Lowes, the home service retailer, they offered me a 10 percent discount.
I was in post-war heaven!
And now, I am on a hunt for more benefits. Why not?
Turns out most of the great benefits don’ come from the VA, unless of course you were injured or given a “disability.” I am glad I don’t qualify for a disability, and I didn’t stay in the military long enough to earn a pension.
I never felt comfortable asking anyone for anything. I always tried to earn it myself, starting my very first job working a Burger King Grill – illegally because I was under-age at only 14. But I learned to take care of myself.
These days, though, it feels good to get a few more benefits. So to T-Mobile and Lowes, I say “Thank YOU for your services, and discounts!”
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him at his personal website at www.Hanania.com or email him at email@example.com.)