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Published: Saturday, 2/14/2004

A promise broken

MEMBERS of the National Guard and the Reserve frequently feel they are the stepchildren of the military.

They are often dissed by the regulars because they are part-timers - except when they are called up. Their enlistments are longer, and, as they are learning, their benefits are uncertain.

Case in point: Ohio's cancellation of summer college tuition payments for men and women in the Army and Air National Guard for lack of funds.

Remember, our military reserves can be mobilized at the whim of the President since Congress has evidently abandoned its constitutional privilege to declare war. And no destination is too dangerous or too uncomfortable to send them.

For that they deserve the country's gratitude, and they deserve what they've been promised.

The guard has a $13.2 million scholarship program this year and $14.6 million for next year. While eliminating summer tuition payments will save $1.2 million, the Ohio guard may this year still find itself considerably in the red.

Blame the economy. Blame the federal formula for deflecting more expenses to the states.

Blame the loss of manufacturing jobs conditioned by globalization. Blame public college tuition hikes of just over 11 percent. But no matter what excuse is utilized, it still amounts to a disgrace.

Ohio young people, as an inducement to sign up with the guard for six years, have been promised that 100 percent of their tuition at public colleges - and equivalent amounts at private schools - would be paid. Reneging on that commitment should not be an option.

The state broke its promises to enlistees once before, cutting its higher education program, which began in 1977, in the late 1980s, lowering tuition coverage to 60 percent.

Enlistment enthusiasm took a dive, and the 100 percent payments returned in 1999. Statewide some 2,500 guard members were enrolled in college classes last fall.

State legislators and Governor Taft owe it to guardsmen and reservists to live up to the promises made to them in return for their six-year terms of service to the nation.

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