The members of the California National Guard are awesome.
These soldiers are on the frontlines of the huge wildfires this state frequently experiences. They have been called upon to deal with the riots and civil unrest that sometimes plague our cities. They have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan during our “War on Terror”.
Now, the Pentagon is asking the men and women to repay enlistment bonuses they received.
Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.
Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.
Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.
But soldiers say the military is reneging on 10-year-old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on veterans whose only mistake was to accept bonuses offered when the Pentagon needed to fill the ranks.
The soldiers are feeling as if they just got shot with fiscal friendly fire.
“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”
Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in re-enlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.
The payback is taking a…