Thank you for your service."
After more than a decade of war, it's a ubiquitous expression of gratitude heard anywhere and every time a military man or woman appears in uniform.
Yet, heartfelt they may be and surely appreciated, they're simply words.
For some service members, that might be enough.
For many others, though, they didn't put their lives on the line, risking life-altering injuries -- sometimes during two, three or four tours of duty -- only for the thanks of a grateful nation.
The nation offered these men and women certain incentives, as well, opportunities they otherwise might not have had.
One main draw was an education, a chance to better themselves and advance their careers in the military or, later, in the civilian world.
That was the deal.
But now, with one war over and another winding down, Congress is changing the terms
Starting today, the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force are ending the Tuition Assistance program, which had provided up to $4,500 a year to help active duty service members and reservists earn degrees from accredited institutions.
Started in 1972 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the program, known as TA, was somewhat of an institution itself in the military.
"A lot of guys join the military to go to school," said Zachary Merisotis, an Army Reservist from Dallastown who will now have to work two jobs and take out $22,000 in loans to finish his last two years at Penn State York.
Ending the program was the decision of the individual branches, but it's the direct result of the sequester -- and the blame for that idiotic budget tool falls squarely on members of Congress.
Most lawmakers acknowledged it was insane to allow the indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts of more than a trillion dollars to take effect.
They were never supposed to. The cuts were intended to be so intolerable to both Democrats and Republicans that they would force the sides to compromise on reining in our national debt.
But it turns out working together was more unbearable than any damage from the sequester, which ended up slashing $500 billion from the Department of Defense.
And the compact with, and trust of, the men and women they sent off to the wars they started?
Acceptable collateral damage in this partisan war, apparently.
But thanks again for your service.
Members of Congress already are pointing fingers across the aisle, blaming the other side for this injustice.
That's just wrong.
They're all culpable, and so is the president.
They can stand in front of the cameras, with their shiny American flag lapel pins, and claim otherwise, but their inaction speaks louder than words.
And the message marks a new low for a group that has been plumbing the depths for a quite a while now.