I Am a ‘Taker’ — and Proud of It

I immigrated to the United States when I was 17.

Ever since then, I have been a “taker.”

I have taken advantage of all the opportunities this great country has offered me and continues to offer all its residents, including immigrants like me.

I took up residence in this beautiful country and took a job that paid me the fabulous amount of one dollar an hour. Yes, I was a taker.

I took the opportunity to join the Armed Forces of my adopted country. The military gave me, and I “took,” a whole $48 a month. The military also provided me with lots of free stuff: food, uniforms, a barracks to live in and many other handouts.

Yes, I took them all.

As an enlisted airman, I took advantage of every free educational and training opportunity offered me by the military. Again, I have to admit, I was a taker.

But I also took long, dangerous flights in all kinds of weather in electronics-laden aircraft up and down the cold Atlantic off our Northeast coast, “looking for” possible Soviet aircraft intrusions into our airspace during the Cold War. But what the heck, I could drink all the free, government provided apple juice I wanted during those long flights and I had all kinds of free stuff waiting for me upon return to my barracks at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

I mooched evenings and weekends taking college courses under that biggest government entitlement of them all, the GI Bill.

Using such free government assistance — and innumerable long nights and weekends of “free” study and hard work — I was finally able to build up two years of college education.

After three years of service, I took a solemn oath and became a citizen of this country. Yes, I continued to take.

A few months later, I took another oath to “carefully and diligently discharge the duties” as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. This was probably the biggest and best handout — the biggest “take” — of my life.

I truly became a freeloader then, as I spent the next 16 years taking orders, taking risks and responsibilities, taking my family to a new home and taking our kids in-and-out of new schools almost every year and enduring prolonged absences from them.

But, hey, I was getting all kinds of free stuff, gifts, benefits and entitlements: housing, medical care, continued training and education, including a military/government provided Masters Degree. I must say, I became a parasite, sucking off the government tit.

After 20 years of taking and taking, I retired from the military and started receiving more “free stuff”: retirement pay and continued medical care.

After another 15 years of freeloading off a defense contractor, using the free training and experience I received in the military, I retired again and became a member of that entitlement culture, dependent on the government, drawing Social Security and qualifying for even more handouts, such as Medicare.

Now, as I near the end of my freeloading years, I can look forward to even more free stuff, a final government handout. With any luck, my freeloading bones will rest in a plot of dirt at Arlington National Cemetery under a government provided grave marker and small American flag. My survivors may even qualify for a very generous $300 “burial allowance.” Talk about from-the- cradle-to-the-grave benefits.

Looking back at all the government handouts I received, I guess I should be ashamed of it.

But you know what, I am not. Actually I am proud of it.

Why?

Because of all that free stuff, because of all those gifts, I became the person I am. As a member of the military, I have been able to contribute to the defense of our country; as a civilian — and because of my military training and experience — I have been able to contribute to its economy.

There are millions, just like this writer, who have used “free stuff,” “government handouts” and “entitlements” to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to become productive citizens, to go from being “takers” to being “makers.”

There are millions more who, given a little bit of “government assistance,” will use it wisely and productively and will repay our society and our country what has been invested in them — all that “free stuff” — many times over.

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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