Have you watched the Island Soldier movie / documentary yet? It is about Micronesians serving in the United States Armed Forces and the situation surrounding that service.
My very first blog blog post here on themicronesian had a short review of the film. It was a great film. Moving and informational.
In a scene from the movie, a counselor explains to a Veteran that even though the Compact of Free Association with the U.S.A. allows us to volunteer for service in the US Military, it says nothing about veteran’s benefits or services in Micronesia.
This is sad, but true.
Title 3, Article IV, Section 341 – 342 does not mention the VA, in fact it doesn’t say much. Even under Title 2, Article II, section 221 where federal services and programs are listed like FEMA, FAA and the weather service, there is no mention of veteran affairs or support in Micronesia. Where is the love? I’m sure this was just an oversight and not intentional.
Here is an idea. Under the same Title 3, Article V: General Provisions, section 351 it says this:
(a) The Government of the United States and the Government of the Marshall Islands or the Federated States of Micronesia shall establish two joint Committees empowered to consider disputes under the implementation of this Title and its related agreements.
Could this be a missed opportunity to bring up this Veteran’s affairs subject? The committee is supposed to meet semi-annually and have probably been doing so for years.
Can the Veterans Affairs issue in Micronesia be at least discussed here for further follow up at another level?
The Power of Media
There is always hope. The Island Soldier movie is doing us great justice. The more it is seen and shared and talked about, the more this issue will be considered at the highest levels of both governments, I hope.
In a recent interview, Island Soldier Director Nathan Fitch related an encouraging story about a recent film screening:
There was a special screening of “Island Soldier” at the Department of the Interior and Fitch says it was amazing to learn shortly after screening, DOI Assistant Secretary assigned his staff to look into Micronesian veteran benefits.
That’s encouraging! I hope our leaders are also looking at this. A recent job posting on the FSM Government’s website showed a Veteran’s affairs specialist position was open. It has since been taken down so I’m assuming we have someone in the FSM national government advocating for Micronesian US Military Veterans.
Speaking with Veterans here in the Islands, I’ve heard many reasons why this has not been addressed. Statements like:
“They don’t give a f***k!” to “If they provide services in Micronesia, more of us would return to the islands, but they don’t want that”
Statements like this keep the emotion and conspiracy theory spirit alive. I don’t think any reason exists other than, there has been no actual concerted, focused effort by any organization on or off island to tackle this issue. With the island soldier movie and that new position (is it filled?) for Veterans at FSM National government one can only hope.
The Compact of Free Association is the reason why we can serve. It can also be the reason why we have Veteran services in Micronesia. How hard would it be to amend the Compact to include services for us IN Micronesia? Two countries agreeing to provide a service to a group of people that served both countries? Is that asking too much?
Have a great weekend and see you on my next blog or podcast.