Remember the dead by rewarding the living

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

— Maj. John McCrae

John McCrae was a physician with the Canadian Forces Artillery who wrote the most famous poem of World War I after burying a friend and comrade who had died in the Second Battle of Ypres, Belgium, in the spring of 1915. McCrae himself died three years later, of pneumonia, in France.

The War to End all Wars claimed the lives of an estimated 10 million soldiers. In all, 65 million were mobilized for the conflict. Of the dead, 116,000 were American soldiers.

Those numbers dwarf the death toll in the Iraq war, which stands at just over 4,000. Many more than that, however, have survived injuries that certainly would have killed them in World War I.

As we pause this Memorial Day to remember those killed in battle in America's wars, we must also look to the needs of those who have returned home. As this country asks its soldiers to serve multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is fitting to ask whether we are doing enough to reward them for that service once it is complete.

The Senate on Thursday passed a major update to the G.I. Bill — the landmark legislation that sent a generation of soldiers to college after World War II. The additional funding would pay full tuition for soldiers who have served at least three years in uniform since 2001.

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton returned to Washington to vote for the bill; John McCain was in California for a fund-raiser and missed the vote, but he supports an alternative measure that would require more than one enlistment to qualify for full tuition.

McCain — and President Bush, who has threatened a veto — are concerned that the tuition benefits will cause too many soldiers to leave the service, harming troop strength in a time of war.

The fact that both McCain and Obama used their differences to score political points was beyond unseemly just days before Memorial Day. What should have been a reasoned discussion of what is best for our men and women in uniform degenerated into potshots between politicians.

If we as a country can send our young people to fight two wars half a world away at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, surely we can help those who survive attend college so they can move on with their lives after leaving the service. Congress should come together to make that happen.

We owe our soldiers nothing less.

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