Over the Hill

GI Bill is a repayment and investment, not a government handout

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

The Veterans Administration can’t pay for my hearing aids. I don’t have the required medals or disabilities for that benefit. That’s OK. I’ve already benefited more than I deserve from the GI Bill of Rights.

Many war veterans have received GI-Bill financing to improve their educations and housing, or to go into business. Their new skills and knowledge have contributed to the American economy. So have their home purchases.

The GI Bill of Rights was passed in 1944 while World War II was still being fought. “GI” is the abbreviation for “Government Issue.” Equipment and uniforms issued by the government to service members were identified as “GI.”

The initials GI were so prevalent that the service members themselves were soon called GIs. And thus the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 was known as the GI Bill of Rights.

The World Almanac says more than 16 million people served in the United States’ armed forces during World War II. When they got out, the GI Bill offered them low-cost financing to buy homes and farms, or to start or buy businesses.

Former service members also received GI unemployment insurance and vocational training. Or they could get a college education, including basic living expenses, all paid for under the GI Bill. Later on, veterans of the Korean and Viet Nam wars also got GI-Bill benefits.

I was on active duty in Army during the Korean War for almost 2 ½ years, but never got any closer to Korea than Camp Roberts. That was OK with me. I wasn’t mad at North Korea. It had never bothered me. If, however, I’d been ordered to Korea I would have gone. But I’m not sorry I didn’t have to.

In September 1953 Mamie and I got married, and I got out of the Army. We moved to San Jose. By late 1957 we had a son and daughter and we owned a brand new house. It had three bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors and a double garage.

I was making $100 per week, which wasn’t bad in 1957. We bought the house with my GI loan and no down payment. The payments, including insurance and taxes, were a little over $100 per month.

In 1962 we moved to Paso Robles and bought a house. We were able to assume the original owner’s GI loan, with payments of about $65 per month. We lived there 20 years. Our children grew up and so did house prices. Then we sold that house and bought our present home for cash.

If the GI Bill were proposed today, critics might say it’s a government handout or socialism. But it wasn’t. It was repayment for service and sacrifice. It was also a government investment in America’s workers and their education, housing and businesses. It fostered a general prosperity, which is now dwindling.