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John Daley ReportingUS troops are serving in Iraq and their families are in a financial no man's land, wondering if bonuses given to them for their hazardous duty will be cut. The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of 148-thousand U.S. troops in Iraq because the 300 million dollar annual price tag is a budget buster.
Last April, in the early days of the war, Congress passed pay increases for uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
"Hostile fire" pay for soldiers in the combat zone rose $75 to $225 a month. "Separation pay" for soldiers away from families jumped from $100 to $250 a month. But the bonuses expire October 1st unless Congress and the Bush Administration act.
George Huntzinger's son Mark is a member of the Army National Guard serving in Baghdad with the 457th Engineering Battalion. His pay helps support his pregnant wife and four children living in Blanding. But they got word about the pay cuts last month through a family support newsletter.
Huntzinger, a former military man himself, says his son and his fellow soldiers are already enduring guerilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120-degree-plus heat.
George Huntzinger, Father of U.S. Soldier in Iraq: "Don't cut our boys' pay. Don't do it. You want to kick them in the teeth, cut their pay. You want to lower morale, cut their pay. It'll do it to them. Ya know. Extend their tours, they can understand that as soldiers because that's what they're obligated to do, but you don't start messing with their dependents, with the pay they get to feed their families."
Both houses of congress have indicated they want the bonuses restored and are currently hammering out the details.
George Huntzinger says if Congress can find the money to increase their own pay, which they recently did, they should do the same for the soldiers.
George Huntzinger, Father of U.S. Soldier: "we won every battle in Vietnam but we lost the war. Is that what's going to happen here? Are we going to win every battle and lose the war again because the politicians can't get it together? That's what I'm worried about. I'm really worried about that. I hope that doesn't take place again. Don't do that to America again."
The big issue, with a soaring budget deficit is money. The bonuses represent $25 million dollars a month.
The deadline for those bonuses to expire is two weeks from today.