There is a wave of patriotism in numerous "hire-a-vet" campaigns. However, discrimination, no matter how noble, is still discrimination.

But let's examine the issue more fully. First, about 10 percent of all veterans see actual combat. Our perception is any vet must have fought off bad guys while risking life and limb. A friend, a Vietnam vet, spent his entire tour in Vietnam ordering booze and food for all the officers clubs. Should he get a parade?

Vets who complete 20 years of service retire with a generous pension and benefits not usually seen in the private sector. They then can use their veteran preference to get a nice cushy federal job and work toward their second 20-year pension. Year ago, just out of college, I took the U.S. Postal Service test. I was elated to ace it with a 100. But a vet with an 86 bumped me with his 15-point vet bonus. I am all for vets, but I had a mortgage to pay and a family to feed, too.

An alarming statistic is 46 percent of vets are filing for disability. Since only 10 percent saw combat, quite a few of our heroes must have suffered greatly in the motor pool or shuffling paper in the office. And let us not forget the numerous sexual assaults by our folks in uniform.

Yes, there are genuine heroes out there. And we should honor them. But in a tight economy, giving a preference to any one group, to the exclusion of others, is discrimination and sets up a class system in a society that prides itself on equality. So should our motto be, "Hire a vet; civilians don't need to feed their families"? Should vets be allowed to bump a more -qualified applicant -- even if already drawing a generous pension?

I have a relative who injured his knee in military training, not combat. He gets a nice pension for life for a 100 percent disability. He then filed and collects 100 percent disability from Social Security. Together he gets $48,000 a year tax free. As a result, he has lost all drive and ambition. In his mid 20s, he will spend the next five or six decades on the public dole. And God help you if you suggest a vet does not deserve an entitlement. Again, we assume, all vets are combat heroes and get our checkbooks.

I believe we need to make a clear distinction between those vets who risked life and limb and those who filed paperwork or served their tour in a resort town. And all Americans deserve an equal opportunity for employment. No class system or quotas for special groups, no matter how popular. America needs to stay a classless, open society. That is what the vets are fighting for.

KENNETH E. IMAN

Springettsbury Twp.