Over the years I have watched quite a few military flyovers. In the 1950s my mother—a World War II veteran—remarked that a formation of jets from nearby then Truax Air Force Base was putting out the ‘sound of freedom.’ In the 60s on Okinawa, I watched B52s and SR71s go about their business on a regular basis, though that was not for show.
Since then, I’ve watched the Blue Angels do their stuff and many flyovers for Liberation Day and 4th of July parades on Guam and Saipan. This year, the star of the show was the B1B Lancer Bomber, which blasted over the Guam crowds for Liberation Day in July and then for Veterans Day in November.
Governor Calvo sure liked that flyover. “With those kind of planes between us and the guy with the crazy haircut, there is no safer place than Guam, guaranteed,” he said, getting laughs and applause from his audience.
On the other hand, the roar of the bomber scared the poop out of my generally fearless grandson Kean, taking it in nearby in Tamuning.
Quite another take came from Gregg Nakano, a U.S. vet from Hawaii, who noted that these exhibits aren’t exactly cheap. One published breakdown has an hour of operations for the B1B costing out at about $61,000. Of course the equivalent price for a B52 is over $70,000.
What Gregg connected for me is that while vets from Guam and the CNMI face some tough obstacles in getting to far away Honolulu-based and administered VA facilities for treatment, compact of free association vets in Micronesia are being denied VA care, period.
“The big !!! was that the VA explanation was that it didn't provide services to any foreign national outside the US or Territories - when you can go on the web and find the Philippines VA healthcare clinic being operated out of the U.S. Embassy compound,” Nakano said.
Obviously, the VA needs to change and some priorities reset to serve those who served, regardless of where they live. With its huge budgets, the military could do a lot to help in the transportation area, Nakano thinks.
“At $1,300 to fly from Guam to Honolulu and back,the single B1 overflight is roughly equivalent to flying 50 veterans back to Tripler for treatment. One a week for an entire year. Even if they didn't want to cancel the B1 overflight, they could ensure that the regular space-available flights going to and from Anderson to Hickam had reserved seats for veterans getting VA healthcare at [Tripler Army Medical Center].”
Now, neither Gregg nor myself are making a case for ending military flyovers. Our volunteer military force requires a serious effort to attract recruits, so you could view these expenditures as an advertising cost.
But if all that inspiring rhetoric we’re accustomed to hearing on Veterans Day and other patriotic occasions is to have meaning, it is obvious that some serious changes in present policy have to be made and soon.
Bruce Lloyd is a veteran journalist, who has been a longtime resident of Guam and Saipan. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org