October 2007
By Alan W. Dowd

Above and Beyond the GI Bill
USAToday recently reported on state efforts to augment the successful federal GI Bill, which has provided education benefits to millions of veterans since 1944. The paper notes that “every state offers some sort of tuition benefit.” But some states are doing more than others. Here are some of the highlights from USAToday’s analysis:

Alabama           Since 2003, tuition has been waived for spouses and children of National Guard members called to active duty in Iraq.

Arizona             A tuition waiver for widows and children under 30 of U.S. soldiers killed in the line of duty went into effect Sept. 9, 2007.

Colorado           A new law makes members of the armed forces and their dependents eligible for in-state tuition if the servicemember gets stationed in Colorado.

Connecticut       The state has waived tuition for veterans since 1974.

Florida              Last year, Purple Heart veterans became eligible for tuition waivers.

Georgia             In 2005, the state passed the Helping Educate Reservists and their Offspring (HERO) Scholarship for Guardsmen and Reservists who, as of May 3, 2003, served in a combat zone.

Illinois               Veterans have generally been given free tuition at state schools since 1920.

Iowa                 The state last year expanded the War Orphans Fund to include dependents of soldiers killed in action in a combat zone after 9/11.

Kansas             The state has appropriated $250,000 for scholarships for Kansans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan for at least 90 days after 9/11.

Kentucky          Tuition waivers for children and spouses of disabled and deceased National Guard and armed forces members were changed this year to increase the age of eligible children from 23 to 26 and to extend waivers from 36 to 45 months.

Maryland          The legislature created a scholarship for veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11.

Michigan           Since 2005, Michigan has had tuition grants for the children of veterans who are killed, missing in action or are permanently disabled.

Nebraska          In 2005, a bill was enacted that changed the tuition waiver for Guard members from 50 percent to 100 percent. Tuition is waived for dependents of veterans killed in combat.

Nevada             Nevada guarantees free tuition at state universities and colleges for Nevada National Guard members.

New Jersey      In January, a law passed that extended eligibility for tuition to former members of the New Jersey National Guard and increased the number of tuition-free credits available to Guard members and dependents.

North Dakota    A 2005 law waives tuition for dependents of deceased veterans. A bill passed this year extends Guard tuition assistance to include all accredited post-secondary schools.

Ohio                 In 2004, legislators expanded eligibility for a 25-year-old Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Program to include Iraq veterans' families.

South Carolina   A new law offers members of the National Guard free tuition at state-supported colleges and universities and even at some private institutions. The state also offers free tuition to the children of veterans who were killed, wounded or are missing in action.

Utah                 A new law waives undergraduate tuition at state institutions of higher education for surviving dependents of Utah resident military members killed while serving in federal active duty.

Virginia             The state has created an in-state tuition benefit for active-duty servicemembers and for activated members of the National Guard and Reserve who are stationed in Virginia but are not Virginia residents.

Washington       Beginning in July 2007, tuition and fees are waived for dependents of combat veterans who are totally disabled, reported missing or killed in combat.

West Virginia    Beginning in July 2007, tuition is waived for honorably discharged veterans who earned a Purple Heart. Legislators also passed a bill that covers tuition costs for active-duty National Guard members pursuing a master's degree.

Wisconsin         In 2006, Wisconsin passed legislation that waived 100 percent of tuition for veterans, up from a 50 percent waiver.

Wyoming          Wyoming has offered free tuition for overseas combat veterans, as well as widows, and orphans of deceased veterans since 2006.

Not Alone
There are 25 countries with military forces in Iraq, in addition to the U.S. and Iraq:

Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan,
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria,
Czech Republic
El Salvador, Estonia
Latvia, Lithuania
Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia
Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea
Ukraine, United Kingdom

A Bridge to Tomorrow
With the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Afghanistan and Tajikistan are linked for the first time in history by a bridge that spans the OxusRiver. Construction of the 2200-foot steel bridge began in 2003. US officials believe the $43-million project will open new trade opportunities and economic growth for Tajiks, Afghans and Pakistanis.   

“This is going to be a booming place,” declared Col. Christopher Toomey in a 2006 interview with Stars and Stripes. Toomey leads USACE’s Afghanistan Engineer District. “This is going to be like an interstate intersection in the United States.” 

The bridge includes one traffic lane for each direction and an additional path for bicycle and foot traffic. USACE expects 1,000 cars to cross the border daily.  

Before the bridge was built, as the Stars and Stripes reported, “the only way to cross the river is via a ferry that costs $15 per person, a stiff price for Afghans, whose average annual income is $800.” 

Waved (and Made) in America
The state of Minnesota has passed a measure to ensure that all American flags sold in the state are made in America. Penalties for selling foreign-made flags include 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. 

“The biggest honor that you can give the flag is that it be made by American workers in the United States of America,” according to state representative Tom Rukavina. 

Minnesota is not alone in making sure Old Glory is made in America, as a recent report filed by The Times of London details. The state of Arizona is making sure that schools and colleges are outfitted with American flags made in the States. Tennessee has a law on the books requiring that any American flag purchased with state monies be made in the U.S. Plus, similar bills are under consideration in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Times reports. 

It is not a small matter. According to the Flag Manufacturers Association of America, $5.3 million worth of American flags were imported in 2006. China accounted for $5 million of that amount. That’s actually down from the $51.7 million worth of American flags that flowed into the country in 2001, $29.7 million from China. Recent tallies include:

2006     $5.3 million in imported American flags

2005     $5.5 million in imported American flags

2004     $5.2 million in imported American flags

2003     $6 million in imported American flags

2002     $7.9 million in imported American flags

2001     $51.7 million in imported American flags

Find out more at www.fmaa-usa.com/resources_links/usflag_statistics.php.  

Tiger Is Tops
Sports Illustrated has released its latest rankings of the top money-making athletes in America, “The Fortunate 50.” Golfing superstar Tiger Woods earned more in endorsements, salary and winnings than the next two athletes combined. Here’s what the Top 10 took to the bank:

1. PGA star Tiger Woods                      $111.9 million

2. Boxer Oscar De La Hoya                  $55 million

3. PGA star Phil Mickelson                    $51.2 million

4. NBA star Shaquille O’Neal                $35 million

5. NBA star Kobe Bryant                      $33.7 million

6. NBA star LeBron James                   $30.8 million

7. NBA star Kevin Garnett                    $29 million

8. MLB star Derek Jeter                       $29 million

9. MLB star Alex Rodriguez                  $28 million

10. NASCAR driver Dale Earnhart Jr.   $27.1 million

As a contributing editor to The American Legion Magazine, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.