The army needs Pat Neal a lot more than it needs $8,000 right now. Unfortunately, there are too few people like him in the military to realize that, and barring further complications,* Pat could be coming home from Fort Benning this month after refusing to sign away his right to an improperly offered $8,000 signing bonus. In the process, he will be walking away from a commission as a second lieutenant and what would likely have been an accomplished career as an infantry officer.
Apparently, military recruiters were offering the signing bonuses despite a section of U.S. code apparently prohibits the army from paying signing bonuses to officers. The day before OCS graduation this last Thursday, the Army circulated a memo to the 115 officer candidates who had made it through the months of training, an official notification that they would not receive their promised bonuses. Their signature was a condition of graduation. 114 of the officer candidates signed it. Pat called his lawyer. Four days later, he is in a work detail, awaiting some resolution that will most likely lead to a voiding of his contract and a one-way trip home.
It is unclear whether the army ever intended to pay the bonuses at all, or, whether recruiters continued to offer bonuses once they knew they could not do so -- I haven't been able to reach anybody at the local recruiting offices yet. Many of the officer candidates who were promised a signing bonus may have passed up college loan repayments in doing so. In any case, the Army is about to lose a great man, and the local chapter of the Los Altos Water Polo Alumni Association is about to get one back.
(Apologies to any Los Charros patrons whom I disturbed Friday night by yelling about this).
UPDATE 5/19: MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM PAT THIS MORNING READS AS FOLLOWS:
THINGS MARCH ONWARD - THE COLONEL BRIEFED ME YESTERDAY THAT I'M BEING RECOMMENDED FOR AN HONORABLE DISCHARGE AND SHOULD BE ABOUT TO START OUTPROCESSING. SO HOPEFULLY I GET HOME MID NEXT WEEK.
(DOESN'T IT LOOK MORE OFFICIAL IN ALL CAPS?)
UPDATE 7/4: THERE HAVE BEEN MANY FURTHER COMPLICATIONS. A JULY 17 RETURN NOW LOOKS MORE LIKELY TO BE IN LATE SEPTEMBER, MONTHS AFTER THE ISSUE CAME TO LIGHT.