Serving Your Town While Serving Your Country
By Michael D. Boll
For nearly twenty years, our combat veterans have been switching roles and becoming first responders! However, some of these veterans have decided to continue defending our nation, part time as military reservists. It should be noted that our New Jersey Military Reserve Units are still being constantly deployed to various combat missions.
Sometimes, our military reservists must leave with little notice. The vast majority of our law enforcement and fire departments bend over backward to help their men or women who are leaving on a deployment. However, sadly a few leaders really do not understand their employee's sacrifice and begin to resent the military reserves all together. Some employers will even go out of their way to deter employees from being in the reserves and do whatever they can to make them quit the reserves altogether. Being a first responder, one would think the command would understand and support our military reserves, but time after time, our military reserve brothers and sisters have to deal with some horrible and unnecessary treatment from their bosses. There is enough stress with being a first responder, and we should be praising and rewarding our first responders who actively serve in the military reserves.
Recently, according to my brothers and Operation Rebound teammates from the Clifton Police Department, there have been major problems serving in the military reserves. After interviewing a few of my Clifton teammates, I learned that harassment of and discrimination against military reservists at the Clifton Police Department has been rampant for well over a decade, but it was not always this way. Prior to September 11, 2001, training for military reservists was mostly the old one weekend a month and two weeks over the summer standard. After the terrorist attacks on 9-11, the military reserve forces were, and still are, used regularly to supplement active duty forces, and as a result, the training tempo for military reserve forces increased, deployments overseas increased, and other military obligations became more common. This required the military reservists to be absent more often from the Clifton Police Department in order to fulfill those obligations.
Unfortunately, the increased necessary military absences to fight the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have reportedly been met with overt disdain by some Clifton police supervisors. There are repeated complaints about the inconvenience of having to modify schedules and derogatory statements made upon returning from military leave, such as “You still work here?” or “Hey, who’s the new guy?” On one occasion, an officer returning from military leave was ordered to stand in front of patrol lineup and introduce himself as if he was new to the force. When drill schedules were submitted, derogatory remarks would follow, such as “How much do you get paid on weekends to drink beer and barbecue?” or “How much do you make to go camping?” Upon submitting notification and orders for an upcoming deployment to Iraq, one officer’s superior officer commented, “Must be nice to go on vacation.” Some officers have even been questioned improperly about their disability ratings for injuries sustained in the service.
Most offensive, however, is the repeated pressure placed on reservists to choose between the police department or the military. They have been told, “You have to pick one, you can’t do both.” A high-ranking department official reportedly once told an officer, “The military is your mistress and the police department is your wife. You need to treat your wife better than your mistress.” This same official was also said to have threatened termination of the officer if he accepted a set of military orders.
Because of their strong commitment to serve their country, they endured the years of harassing comments and threats by department supervisors and officials. Service to both the city and the military can, and should, peacefully co-exist. Instead, they have now received threats to reduce their pay unless they reimburse the city all military pay received retroactive to 2011 for military leave that the City had already approved if they fail to turn over seven years of military paystubs. The financial burden this could cause their families could not possibly be lost on City officials. There is not much more of a deterrent to reservists, and those who may be contemplating military service, than this.
These uniformed heroes are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They don’t ask for recognition; they don’t ask for praise. All they ask is the unfettered ability to serve.