If there is anything we learn in community news, it’s the value of the individual. We know very well how much of a difference a single person can make.

On a worldly scale, the vast United States government knows little of the individual, including the individual soldier. There’s a lot of talk about improving benefits for the military at-large, but the value of the individual soldier is lost.

Case in point: A soldier in our readership area is deployed in Iraq. He’s been there since October and as you can imagine, he’s involved in very dangerous work, day after day.

Two weeks ago, he was taken to task by a superior officer because of a $380 balance on his government credit card. It was overdue.

He called his parents early that morning and asked them to pay it. They did. But what’s interesting is the story behind it.

What is the charge for, then, you might ask?

It’s his ticket to Iraq.

His parents called the credit card company to talk about this government credit card and were told that now there was an interest charge and a cost for making the payment over the phone. The bill was actually 120 days overdue. So, even though he’d never received the card or the bill, they paid it, to get the senior officer off the soldier’s back. Two of his friends and fellow soldiers had just been killed. He had more important things to think about.

Fast forward two weeks: The parents receive an e-mail. The senior officer is on their son once again because of an $80 charge on that same credit card — the card he doesn’t have.

They call the credit card company. They learn that the $80 is an administrative fee to cover the cost of garnishing the soldier’s wages to pay off the amount due. What amount due, they ask? The $380.

The $380 payment was made on Jan. 12, the same day the account became 120 days overdue and the $80 fee hit. Because the process of garnishing wages had begun, the Department of Defense (DOD) would not recognize that the $380 was paid. Therefore, 15 percent of the soldier’s wages will be garnished until the credit card company informs the DOD that there is a zero balance. AND, even at the point that the debt is paid, it will take “a few months” for the DOD to stop garnishing the wages.

A credit balance will build up on a credit card account that no longer exists because it’s been canceled due to nonpayment of the bill. Will the money be returned to the soldier? “Eventually, if we call and ask for it,” the mother was told.

It should be noted that there is an office in the DOD that was supposed to have paid this bill. The paperwork was filled out, not once, but twice. They didn’t pay it. Why isn’t someone going after them?

So while this young man is fighting in a war, the government for which he is fighting is taking money from him to pay a bill he doesn’t owe.

Stories like this are a dime a dozen, and many of them are far more serious, involving inadequate equipment and poor care of injured soldiers.

While most of us are pumped up with American pride, I don’t think we’d be pleased to know how our soldiers are treated.

If the U.S.A. wants to continue with an all-volunteer military, they’d best remember the value of the individual. In that regard, we, in our small New England communities, could teach them what they really should already know.