Ruppersberger Seeks To Expand Visits For Soldiers

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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DUNDALK, Md. (WJZ) — More than 400 Maryland National Guardsmen and their families are learning a hard lesson: not all deployments are equal.

Alex DeMetrick reports that’s creating hardships for some.

When National Guardsmen are ordered overseas, saying goodbye is never easy.  Fortunately, a one-year deployment does allow for a brief home leave.  Those short reunions are happy and airfare is free for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not for 440 Maryland Guardsmen sent to Egypt.  They can only come home on their own dime.

“And he has to pay his own airfare.  That’s a tremendous hardship on these soldiers and their families,” said Bill Weber, father of a Guardsman.

And it’s not just about the money for family members.

“It takes over 20 hours to come home and their leave starts when they sign out from there.  If they leave from Iraq, their leave starts when they touch American soil,” said Cindy Ricklin, wife of a Guardsman.

It all started in 1978 with the Camp David Peace Treaty, with the U.S. committing soldiers to a multi-national force to patrol the border between Egypt and Israel.  That distinction means no home leave for some.  Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is introducing an amendment to change that.

“A lot of men and women in the military in Egypt can not afford to come home for that one week of R&R and we need to do that,” Ruppersberger said.

A request to talk with Guard members was declined.  It’s a standard policy of the National Guard not to comment on political matters and this will come down to politics.

“Right now in Washington, anything that has to do with spending is going to have a difficult time.  But this is not that expensive.  We’re talking about airline tickets,” Ruppersberger said.

The Egyptian deployment rotates among National Guard units in a number of states and lasts one year.

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