Mixed reactions from FilAm veterans over proposed military cuts

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

March 5, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has introduced plans to reduce the United States Army to its smallest force since before World War II.

The US Army currently has about 520,000 soldiers and plans to cut the number down by 450,000 by the end of the year.

Other proposed cuts include the elimination of the popular fighter jets called the A-10 Warthogs and the reduction of military benefits.

The cuts will help balance the billions of dollars spent for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army data show that soldiers of Asian and Pacific Islander decent make up about five percent of the entire US Army.

Ewart Bungo Jr., 27, a specialist in the Army Reserve was a part of the infantry during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 to 2011.

Bungo is against the proposed cuts.

“I really think it is devastating to the Filipino-American veterans,” Bungo said. “Reducing our pay and cutting soldiers, I think that it is taking away what we have as an opportunity to actually be successful in this country.”

Bungo currently uses his military benefits to go to school at San Francisco State University and to support his wife and their children.

With the tough economy, he says soldiers like him cannot afford a reduction to their benefits.

“We served this country and now you want to take benefits away from us,” he said. “Why would you do this to us? We are the only fighting force that is keeping us free.”

Drew Viola, a 26-year-old army specialist, feels differently than Bungo.

Viola worked in logistics. He served two tours of duty: Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2010.

He says he understands what the Pentagon is trying to do.

“They are trying to find the new army because we aren’t going to war anymore,” Viola said. “There’s no more war.”

Viola currently uses his benefits to support his girlfriend and their child.

But if he ends up losing his military benefits, he says he could move on to other means of livelihood.

“You drive on, you move forward,” Viola said. “And whatever experiences you had in the military can only make you better as a civilian.”

Despite the proposed cuts to the military, the Pentagon assures Americans that the nation and its people will still be protected.

The US Army plans to conduct more training programs that will produce more elite soldiers.

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