I just finished reading yet another story in the Boston Glob that left me steaming. It’s a touchy-feely piece about a gentleman named Rolando Rivera. Fifteen years ago Rivera left the Army and began putting his computer skills to work. He’s now 44 and pulling down 180,000 a year as a principal systems engineer for a software company. He’s married and quite happily settled into his life.
Until Uncle Sam came calling. It seems that Rivera, when he left active duty, agreed to remain as part of the Individual Ready Reserve. For fifteen years, Rivera has been collecting checks from the Army (totalling over $100,000) and giving back nothing except his word to return to serve if called.
Well, he’s being called now. The Army wants to send Sergeant First Class Rivera to Afghanistan, but he doesn’t want to go. He makes too much money, his wife has a heart condition, and he’s woefully out of shape. They should send someone else.
Now, I have admitted before I never served in the military, so I am in no position to judge Sgt. Rivera on those grounds. But I am a taxpayer, and for fifteen years he’s been taking MY money and betting that he’d never get called upon to fulfill his promise to return. You lost your bet, Mr. Rivera. It’s time to pay up.
Personally, if he’s so unwilling to go, I’m willing to give him a bye. But I wouldn’t just let him go. I’d demand the repayment of every single red cent he’d happily taken as a member of the Ready Reserve. Further, I’d want him to pay for the training expenses and other costs of his replacement — the soldier who will be going in his place. I’d also take away any pension or any other benefits he’s accrued while in the Individual Ready Reserve. Nobody made him sign up for it and nobody made him cash the checks. It was a simple contract, a pure quid pro quo, and he failed miserably to keep up his side of it.
Thank you for your service 15 years ago, Mr. Rivera. You did more then than I have, and I honor you for that. But don’t let your mouth write checks your ass can’t cash — especially when those checks are being drawn on my tax dollars.