Letters, never a letter

I get no letters in the mail

I’ve been forgotten, yes, forgotten

Now I’m a soldier, a lonely soldier

Away from home through no wish of my own

— Bobby Vinton

I recently found that families of military people pay regular postage and shipping costs when they mail packages to soldiers in a war zone.

America ships soldiers off to Afghanistan and Iraq for free. If you come back in a body bag, they ship that back for free, too.

However, we make families who send soldiers socks, food and underwear pay shipping costs.

In a world where we spend billions to bail out Wall Street bankers and run trillion-dollar government deficits, our government makes the families of soldiers pony up for postage.

That’s not right.

If America is going to send our troops to fight dangerous wars, we need to make sure that the troop’s support systems are “too big to fail.”

Instead, war has been hell on the homefront, too.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, the families of soldiers have been fighting an economic battle. Few military people come from wealth. As Michael Moore made clear in his movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” members of Congress aren’t interested in sending their children to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Working class families allow the rest of us to avoid being subjected to a draft.

Yet, those families can’t send a box of cookies to a soldier without paying shipping and postage.

Since the beginning of the search for “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, it seems like our government has declared an economic war on the soldiers and families fighting the war.

We sent troops into battle without proper body armor. The scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center showed how horribly injured veterans have been treated. We’ve sent the same people back to Iraq, over and over and over again.

And we won’t let their families skip shipping costs when they send a box of popcorn.

The war in Iraq has gone on longer than World War II. And with an economic crisis and unemployment going full tilt, the military gets overlooked in the media cycle.

Americans are more likely to know the “body count” of Tiger Wood’s mistresses than how many soldiers died fighting overseas.

When the Iraq war started, Congress and the Pentagon allowed military families to be subjected to every kind of financial scheme imaginable. Military families were getting slammed by payday lenders, check-cashing companies and a host of peddlers, hawking products that were designed “exclusively” for the military market.

The “exclusive” products created high commissions for the person who sold them, but never did as well as comparable products offered to the general public.

Diana Henriques of the New York Times did a series of articles about how soldiers were being targeted by unsavory peddlers to buy financial products they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

She mentioned in passing that soldiers were being sold “contractual mutual funds” by companies like the Fidelity Group, where Peter Lynch is vice chairman.

I wrote a long series of columns about the contractual mutual fund rip-off.

I’ve been familiar with contractual mutual funds since studying for my securities license in the early 1980s. They were great for the person selling them and lousy for the person buying them. I thought companies quit selling them long ago. It turns out that Fidelity had a special product which it marketed almost exclusively to military people.

It literally took an act of Congress to stop Fidelity from peddling those funds to soldiers. Congress also limited payday lenders to a maximum of 36 percent interest for transactions with military people and their families.

In several previous columns, I offered to have Peter Lynch and his Hollywood chums, such as Lily Tomlin, shipped to Iraq to replace soldiers who bought Fidelity contractual funds.

Turns out, if a military family had shipped Peter and Lily, they would have been required to pay shipping and postage costs.

If we are sending soldiers off to war, we ought to allow them to receive an unlimited number of free packages from their immediate families.

Because of an odd quirk in the law, soldiers in war zones can send letters home for free. But, if someone wants to send them a package, they pay full freight.

Currently, there are three bills before Congress to fix this problem, HB404, HR2126 and HR707. All three are buried in the Armed Services Committee, going nowhere.

We need to make one of those bills into law.

I hope people send holiday presents to our soldiers. They have a job I would never want, in a place I never want to visit.

That gets us through this year. A more long lasting present is to call, write or e-mail your congressman.

Tell them to let the families of soldiers send packages and letters to the soldiers at no charge. Ask for their support for at least one of the bills buried in the Armed Services Committee.

You can help make it more like Christmas for our soldiers every day, instead of just once a year.

Don McNay of Richmond, an award-winning, syndicated financial columnist, author and Huffington Post Contributor, is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table. Read more about Don at www.donmcnay.com.

React to this story:


Recommended for you