Veterans’ bonuses are deserved appreciation

A referendum would rightly put the question directly before the electorate.

Recently, state Sen. Dave Klies, R-St. Cloud, proposed bonuses for recent military service at home or abroad during the military operations in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans’ bonuses are state tradition, having been paid to veterans after both world wars, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Such bonuses are sensible state policy, showing deserved appreciation to individuals who serve their state and country, many of whom have put themselves in harm’s way.

The last time the state made such payments was after the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations. The state paid $300 for domestic service, $600 for service in the theater of war and $2,000 to families of those killed in action, the total outlay of approximately $17.6 million. The total, while a substantial amount, represents less than one-tenth of 1 percent of state expenditures in 2003. If considered on a per-veteran basis, it is more a symbolic gesture than anything else.

Klies’ proposal would get voter approval by amending the state constitution through referendum. If done this fall, the state could get the payments out in 2006. Because the bonus, although more of a “thank you” than compensation, would directly benefit a specific group of people, a referendum rightly puts the question directly before the electorate as a whole.

John F. Kennedy once challenged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Armed forces personnel, like others in public service, answer that challenge, many sacrificing earning potential and other benefits of the civilian world. Military personnel answer in a uniquely courageous manner.

At some level, most servicemen and servicewomen choose to put others’ safety before their own. This is not standard human behavior, and as such, is admirable and merits respect.

The people of Minnesota should again recognize the service military personnel render and the difficult choices they make, and approve this measure of gratitude to our veterans.